My Only Escape

Chapter 20

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While the fear still invaded every part of me, I embraced it proudly. I almost felt empowered by the terror inside. I had become so numb to its crippling effect by this point. The idea of being scared to enter the only place that I had in this world to call 'home' had become habit. Just another mundane condition of my dreary existence...coming to take hold of me once again. Just like it had a million times before.

Normally, that would crush my spirit, and I'd defeat myself emotionally before even stepping a single foot through that door. But not today.

Today I really paid attention to the intense waves of anxiety that were racing through me, head to toe. And you want to know something? It wasn't as bad as I made it out to be. It wasn't going to kill me, no matter how hard it worked to rattle me to the bone.

Was this the best my father had to offer? Is this what made him such a tyrant? Such a boogeyman in my mind for all these years? Because I've actually felt the power of true love since Brody came into my life. I've been bowled over by it. Completely overwhelmed by its merciless charm. And I know what REAL power is now. I've felt it. And this nervous feeling that I have bouncing around in my stomach as I climbed those steps up to the back porch? It didn't match up. I fact, it paled in comparison.

I can't say that I wasn't afraid, because I was. What I can say, that it just didn't seem to matter today. Honestly...I almost wanted him to kill me. I thought about it as I climbed those stairs. One after the other. Left foot, right foot. Left foot, right foot. I thought about going into the kitchen drawer and arming myself with a few knives...finally giving my father the fight that he had been asking for. No more abuse. No more insults. I could finally show him what his 'pretty boy' was capable of once he was pushed to the edge.

The ONLY thing that I'd truly miss about this life was Brody. He's he only reason I have for not grabbing a knife and turning the blade on myself. It's hard to imagine having any reason at all to live without him by my side. He was my everything. Knowing that...I felt as if I had nothing else to lose. Everything that my father had ever threatened to take away from me as a human being...he could have it. He could have it ALL! Just give me my Brody, and I'll be fine. Everything else, my very 'survival' included, was just an accessory. There's no amount of pain that he can bash and batter me with, even in the WORST of his rages, that my sweet angel couldn't heal with a single kiss and a caress of my cheek.

He's my cure for the sickness my father implanted in me. He keeps the voices at bay. He's the only proof I have that I'm worthy of love. That I'm worthy at all. That I can have what other people have. That the promise of a life free of constant torture and pain is even possible for a boy like me. Brody's love is the only thing that keeps me from breaking apart. It's STRONGER than my father's fear. SO much stronger.

It's time that he realized that for himself.

An ice cold shiver rumbled through me as I reached into my pants pocket for my house key. My face was blank. Emotionless, despite the unsettling disturbance within. I put my key in the lock...and I turned it.

As I walked into the kitchen, I could see some dirty dishes in the sink from my father's midday snacking. I also noticed a tied up garbage bag by the back door, and the shapes of empty beer cans near the top.

He's intoxicated. Good. Better, even. I'm glad.

Normally, that would be a cue for me to drop my backpack down and take out the trash before being asked to do so. Normally, I'd go to that sink and wash up those dishes before even giving my feet a slight rest from walking all the way home from school. But, no...not today.

I closed the door behind me and felt my eyes narrow with a mellow sense of utter hatred as I just marched myself right past the trash and the dishes and headed towards my room.

"Zack...?" My father called out from the living room. He was on the couch, watching TV. Half asleep, from the hazy sound of his voice. "Did you take out the garbage?" He asked. But as I walked towards my bedroom...all he got from me was silence, accompanied by an icy cold stare that caused him to raise an eyebrow in response.

I went right into my bedroom, kicking off my shoes...putting down my books. He has no idea how close he is to getting his throat slit. I could do it, you know? It seemed unthinkable before...but now I know I can do it. He's just a man. A flesh and blood human being...just like me. I could do it. I could make him bleed for me. And this chaotic Hell of a miserable fucking life would be over for both me AND my mom!!! All it takes is a little 'push' on his part. That's all I need.

I hope he gives me a reason. PLEASE give me whatever psychotic instinct I need to just blackout and wake up to his corpse laying in a pool of fucking BLOOD right beside me! Do it! PLEASE do it!!!

"Hey!" He said from the other room. I could hear just a hint of a drunken slur in his voice, but it wasn't as bad as I expected. "Zack! Did you clean up that kitchen? Dinner's not going to make itself, you know? You get it done before your mother gets home from work or it's your ass. You HEAR me?"

I didn't answer him. I was standing in the middle of my room, my back to the door, regulating my breathing, keeping my wrath under control. But the very sound of his nagging fucking VOICE was almost enough to drive me insane! I didn't even realize how tightly my fists were balled up until I heard my knuckles crack from the pressure.


I don't know why...but I felt a single tear roll down my right cheek. My bottom lip was quivering...but I just stood there. There are no words to describe the unspeakable loathing that I had for that man in that one glaring moment of defiance.

I just kept thinking....

Knives in the drawer...

Screwdrivers in the pantry...

A hammer, a tire iron, a bottle of bleach in the basement next to the washing machine.

He's never going to let me and Brody be happy, is he? He's never going to let me escape. Brody is my escape. He's my salvation in all this. His love means more to me than my pointless protection of this hellish SECRET!!! I'm SICK of it!!! And if I challenge him...if I end up drawing my last breath this least I know that I died with love in my heart. Knowing that I was worth something. That I wasn't some piece of worthless trash to just be abandoned and pushed aside. To be beaten down and broken, treated without any sense of value at all.

He loves me. And we'd be good together. Which means everything that my father told me was a heartless and despicable lie. A LIE!!!

So I don't fear the consequences this time. His days of maintaining his hold on my ability to be happy are over.

I waited for him to yell at me again, but he allowed laziness to settle in and went back to watching TV. It wouldn't last. Not for long. I was sure of it.

I walked over to my dresser and I turned my music on. Aggressive music. Angry music. I used to keep the volume down so low that I could barely appreciate it. I didn't dare put on headphones, for fear that I'd miss my father's call from the other room and force him to come 'retrieve' me. But this time I wanted to hear it. I wanted him to hear it. And I slowly turned the volume knob to the right as a few more tears slipped from my dead and sullen eyes.

I thought about Brody and how badly he wanted to be there for me. I thought about how I made him cry...just because I was too broken to know how to love somebody. Even somebody who so clearly loves me back. But he was right. Love heals everything. Absolutely everything.

I turned the music up a little louder. Every distorted guitar and brutal pound of the drum creating a fury within me. The fear? I don't think it went away. I think something else happened. I think I was learning to burn that fear as fuel. It only seemed to make me more determined to get this over with. The whole time...still thinking...

Knives in the drawer...

Screwdrivers in the pantry...

A hammer, a tire iron, a bottle of bleach in the basement next to the washing machine.

I thought about what it would be like to poison his food...and watch him gasp, choke, and cough up blood, while I watched with a grin from the other side of the table. Eating my food as though there was nothing awkward going on at all.

But no...that would be too easy. I wanted to hurt him the way he hurt me. I wanted to cave in his skull with a blunt object, and just keep hitting and hitting and hitting until I was too exhausted to go on. I wanted him to FEEL it! My desperation. My resentment. My RAGE over him making me this way! For hurting me, and for making me hurt Brody. No, poison is no good. I want him, in his last moments, to have to FIGHT for his life the way I had to fight for mine. And finally give in to the fact that it's hopeless for him to do so. I want to see it in his eyes. That break. That surrender to the inevitable. The very idea of it nearly gave me a near-sexual thrill...

...And I turned the music up louder.

"Zack!!!" Came the sound of his monstrous bellowing from the living room. "Turn the fucking music DOWN or turn it off!!!"

I turned it up louder.

"Do you hear me talking to you, boy?!?!" He shouted.

My whole body began to tremble, more tears pouring out of my eyes as I prepared for the possible endgame. And I turned the music all the way up to FULL volume! Loud enough to echo throughout the house and probably outside between buildings too.

I heard a string of curse words coming from the other room, and my father got up off of the couch, his heavy and menacing footsteps quickly stomping their way towards my room. I held my breath as his furious gaze fixed itself upon me, but I didn't not move. I didn't budge. I stood right next to my speakers, and if the loud music could have gotten any louder...I would have cranked it up even more.

He was so outdone by my defiance that he could barely breathe. My knees almost buckled at the sight of him looming over me. So much bigger. So much stronger. But I did NOT give in. If I don't make a stand right here, right now...I never will.

"You don't hear me talking to you? You wanna play games today, is that it?" He said, gritting his teeth. Then he faked a chuckle, saying, "You just look for more and more reasons for me to hurt you. You just can't seem to straighten your act out. That's why I'm here. I'm gonna straighten out for you. Believe me."

I didn't say a word. I stared right back at him, and as the song came to an end...I reached forward...and I started it over again from scratch.

"You son of a..." My father angrily lunged forward to push me and tried to turn my music off, but I SLAPPED his fucking hand away! And for the first time, with all the strength my wiry arms could muster, I literally attacked my father, head-on! With a snarl and both of my hands raised I shot forward and tried my best to grab for his...his THROAT, or his FACE, or...or fucking SOMETHING! I don't even know WHAT I was lunging for! I was too blind with rage to care! "What the fuck do you think you're DOING??!?!?!" He shouted over the music, grabbing me by the wrists and trying to hold me still!

I struggled for a few moments, hoping to get my hands free from his iron grip, but when that didn't work, I began to kick him as hard as I could in both legs. I wish I had left my shoes on, as I'm sure it hurt me more than it hurt him. Only my anger numbed me from the damage, and as soon as I got a hand free, I balled up my fist and punched him right in the JAW! The shock of it got him to release my other hand, and I swung on him over and over again like a madman! One punch after the other! Trying to connect with any part of him that I could possibly find open while he attempted to protect himself from my aggravated assault. I screamed and yelled and cried until my entire face burned with tears of intense hatred! He DESTROYED me as a human being, and for the first time he was going to ANSWER for that!!!

My vision blurry with tears, it wasn't long before the element of surprise no longer worked in my favor.

My father took a hold of my wildly flailing arms, and his hand covered my entire face...smashing it and brutally pushing me down to the floor! "Are you out of your FUCKING mind???" He had mashed my face so hard that I felt a trickle of blood and snot running out of my nose. Some of it smeared across my upper lip. But the anger pushed me forward, and I started to get back up to my feet to have another go at him, but he yanked me up by my shirt...the crackle of the stretched and torn fabric filling the room, and his fist plugged me right in the stomach. It took all of the wind out of me at once, and I fell to my knees involuntarily, coughing and sputtering as I fought for oxygen. But even though I was down at the moment...I kept thinking...

Knives in the drawer...

Screwdrivers in the pantry...

A hammer, a tire iron, a bottle of bleach in the basement next to the washing machine.

My father walked over to totally wreck my speakers! I knew that was his plan. Just destroy the whole system so I wouldn't have it anymore. But the music kept my adrenaline pumping, and even while breathless and weak in the knees, I got up again and ran right at him, ducking my head and wrapping my arms around his waist as I fought to release YEARS of frustration and abuse all in a matter of minutes! I felt punches in my side and on my back, and I had NO plan as to what I was going to do next, but I held him tight and I didn't let go. I dug my feet into the carpet and dug my shoulder deep into his ribcage, pushing him back against my dresser and causing him to get angrier than I had ever SEEN him before! Ever! He shouted at me and I shouted back...object falling to the floor, posters being ripped down from the wall...had it not been for the music, the neighbors might have thought that some sort of deadly battle royale tournament was hitting its twelfth round!

My father began to hit me even harder, and as infuriated and amped up as I was...I just wasn't strong enough to fight him. I TRIED! God...I just...I really TRIED, you know? I just wasn't big enough. I was seconds away from being too sore to move, and as he tried to peel me away from his waist and pry my arms apart...I BIT him! I bit him hard, and deep! Right in the stomach!

"You little FAGGOT!!!" At this point, he grabbed a giant handful of my hair and gripped it so tight that I could feel strands of it being ripped right out of my scalp. "Let go! You hear me??? Let go!" As the agony intensified, I loosened my jaws, if for no other reason than to cry out in pain. And as soon as he had me standing upright, he spun me around and held me with my back up against his massive chest. One arm got a tight grip around my neck, his muscular forearm putting heavy pressure on my windpipe. And his other hand moved up to my face, pinching my nostrils closed and covering my mouth so I couldn't breathe. He held me there! I couldn't even gasp for air. I started to kick and spasm and tried desperately to pull his hand away, but his hold only constricted himself even more as I helplessly squirmed in his lethal embrace. "See??? Huh??? You wanna be a man, but you're NOT a man! Are ya??? What now, faggot? Huh? What happens now???" He tightened the hold on my throat until it almost made me sick! And I kicked and waved my hands in a state of unrestrained PANIC as I felt myself losing consciousness!

He could easily carry my weight if he had to. He could pick me up off of the floor and personally 'lynch' me right here in my bedroom if he saw fit. My throat hurt from trying to suck in air that just wasn't there. My body weak. My nose bleeding. A knot in my stomach from where I had been punched. I should have killed him when I had the chance. I should have taken the opportunity.

I'm sorry, Mom. I'm sorry, Brody. Adam. Sam. I wish I could have been a better son. A better buddy. A better boyfriend. So much that I wish I could have done. So much that I wish I could have had. But at least now I know...

...The pain will soon be over.

And then, I heard the doorbell ring...

It was faint. Distant. Just like everything else as my failing strength was being sapped from my limbs.

And then...he took his hand off of my nose and mouth and wiped it on the back of my shirt as he dropped me to the floor like a sack of garbage. Air had never tasted so sweet. I held my chest and stomach as I opened my mouth wide to suck in giant gulps of oxygen, all the while fighting the dizzy and nausea that came with being deprived of it for so long.

We were both breathing hard...but only one of us was standing.

"If I hear so much as creek in the floor boards coming from this room...I'm knocking you OUT! Do you hear me?" He said, and I saw him lift up his shirt to lightly touch the angry bite marks that I had left in his side. Dark red grooves that had broken the skin, but not by much. "Not a fucking word!" He told me, and walked out of my room, slamming the door shut behind him.

Why couldn't I beat him? Why? It's not FAIR! It's just not FAIR!!!

I held my stomach, sobbing softly to myself as I crawled on hands and knees to open my bedroom door a crack. What I heard...only seemed to terrify me more.

My father, after peering through the window at the back door, opened it up. "Yeah?"

That's when I specifically heard Brody's voice coming in from outside. "Is Zack home? We came to see if he could come out for a while."

Brody. My Brody. Why is he here? What is he doing? Who's 'we'?

"Zack's busy. He's got chores and homework." My dad said.

"Well, can we at least talk to him? Just for a few seconds, to tell him where we'll be if he finishes up?" I could hear a determination in Brody's voice. A sense of urgency. No! What is he doing? NO!!!

"I said, he's busy." My father grunted. "You boys will just have to come back tomorrow."

"Is there any reason why we can't just see him? Just for him to tell us that?" Was that Adam's voice? Was Adam there too?

I silently opened my door a bit further, and peeked my head out. Looking down the hall while still on my knees, I could see Brody, Adam, and Sam, all standing there together...looking up at my father and refusing to go away until they at least talked to me, face to face.

There was a long pause. I was too far away for me to see much, but a standoff had been made, and I began to tremble violently at the thought of Brody and my friends being hurt. My father can beat on me all he wants...just don't hurt my friends! Please...just leave them alone!

That's when I heard Adam say, "We're just going to the park. It's not that far away. My mom is going to make us a few snacks. We live just across the alley. I can have her come right over and 'talk' to you about it if you want."

Why are they standing up for me? What are they doing here? They'd be safe if it wasn't for me. They wouldn't be in danger if I was strong enough to fight for myself. God, this hurts. It hurts sooooo much....

My father looked them up and down for a moment, then he said, "Five minutes."

Brody asked, "Can we wait inside..."

But he cut him off and said, "No." Shutting the door in their faces. But they didn't leave that porch. They stood right there and they waited for me. God knows why. I quickly ducked my head back into my room as my father's footsteps led him right back to me. He barged in the door and I scampered back into the corner, curling myself up into a ball and awaiting more punishment. "What did you tell your friends?"

"I didn't tell them anything..." I sniffled.

"You're lying to me. What did you tell them?"

"I SWEAR! I swear, I didn't tell them anything...I told them to go home..."

"You told them to go home? Why? What did you say?" He barked. I just began sobbing uncontrollably and he reached down and roughly grabbed me by the chin, his fingers forcing the insides of my cheeks to grind up against my teeth. "You know what happens if any of this leaves this house. Don't you? DON'T YOU?" I nodded slightly, and he pushed my head back against the wall as he let me go. "Get up. And STOP crying! You're ALWAYS crying!!!" He pulled on my arm and brought me back up to my feet. "Clean yourself up, change your shirt, and get the fuck out of my sight. You hang out with your friends, you make nice with them, and then you get your little sissy ass right back here before your mother gets home, boy. You hear me? Otherwise...I might just take up this little wrestling match with her instead." He wiped his hands off and felt his side again. "The next time you bite me...I'm getting the pliers from the toolbox and I'm gonna take every last fucking tooth right out of your head! You hear me?"

I had to stand there for a moment. Frozen. Crying, sniffling, wishing I had come up with a better plan. Looking at the mess on my floor. Looking at the ripped posters on the wall. But Brody and the others were waiting. They'll only make him madder if they ring the doorbell or knock again.

I looked in my closet for a new shirt, and limped my way into the bathroom to blow my nose and wipe the smeared blood off of my face. My eyes were red, but there was nothing that I could do about that now. The task was to clean up as much as possible and swallow the pain before anybody saw it. My arms were so tired, my shoulders sore, as I lifted my shirt above my head and did a quick check in the mirror. I saw a bit of a dark spot in the center of my abdomen, just above my belly button. Nothing too bad though. I know bruises. If it had been worse, it would have turned black and blue by now. My neck was a little red, but I was hoping that it would go away soon. All in all, fo all the conflict and rumbling I did, I didn't have too much to worry about visibly. As long as I kept Sam from jumping on my back or anything...I should be fine.

A few more stray tears kept rolling down my cheeks, but I was quick to catch them and looked closely to fix my hair. A few last sniffles, a last minute check...done.

I put my shoes on. Breathe. Always remember to breathe. soon as I rubbed a sore spot on my shoulder one more time, I fixed my mask...and I was ready to go. No more tears, Zack. Brody's here. Time to get 'pretty' for my sweetheart. I cry too much anyway. I'm always crying. It didn't even hurt.

I went to the back door and opened it up. All three boys turned around with their eyes wide as I stepped outside. Did I miss something? No. I doubt I missed anything. I've done this enough times to know how to thoroughly check myself before going out.

"Hey guys!" I smiled, stepping out on to the porch. "What's up? What's going on?"

"Zack?" Brody asked, looking closely. "Are you ok?"

"What do you mean? Of course, I'm ok." I told him. Everybody was quiet and I said, "I had some homework to do, and my dad's a little cranky about me getting it done. But he said I could go out for a while if you..."

Before I could finish, Brody stepped closer to me and hugged me lovingly around the neck. Only seconds later, Adam and Sam joined in to hug me too. It was so comforting. So warm. The love and affection that I felt from having them truly worry about me...actually care about caused a lump to form in my throat. I found it hard to swallow, the emotion taking me over, inch by inch...until it was almost too much for me to bear.

Just as my eyes began to mist over again, I giggled and broke away from their embrace. "What are you doing? Hehehe, I told ya, I'm fine!" I said. Then turned to Adam, "So, what's the plan? Where are we going?"

A little confused by my demeanor, Adam said, "We thought...we were just going to the park. Maybe by the lake or something...?"

"Cool! Well, what are we waiting for? Let's go! I've gotta get back kinda early, so..." I smiled and put on the bravest face that I could, but I knew that they weren't buying it. At least not yet. I was tired, that's all. Exhausted. I'll get better. We'll walk to the park, we'll give Sam some shit for being a twerp, I'll start laughing...and everything will be normal again.

As long as I have my Brody, I'm ok.

Brody is all that matters in this world. He makes life better. He makes joy possible. He's the only escape I'll ever have.