It was Brody's lingering stare that fascinated me most as we all walked to school together that morning. There was just...something special about it. Something so shamelessly revealing about the feelings in his heart. I almost didn't know how to handle it. The emotions that welled up inside of me with just a tilt of his flirtatious grin was more than I could bear at times. I had to fight to control myself and keep from falling over in a fit of unexplainable giggles. Laughter that was sure to baffle Adam in ways that I wouldn't be able to make excuses for.
That's what Brody does to me. Every time.
Did he know? Is he enjoying this 'tickle torture' brand of affection, knowing full well that I was on the edge of bursting every minute that he was near me? This was the ultimate definition of 'life'. I could feel it in my veins. I could feel the warmth of the sunlight on my skin. I could smell the green glory of the lawns we walked past. I could sense my heart beating irregularly as thoughts of finding another opportunity to kiss those sweet lips of his burrowed their way into my mind and refused to leave. Even when inspiring a certain visible excitement in the front of my pants.
Whenever our eyes connected, which was quite often...I couldn't help but to notice this feeling of total 'honesty' in his smile. I mean...for the first time in my life, someone actually made it seem like they really liked me...and I was beginning to feel comfortable enough to believe him. I was convinced. If this was all a game, then he should be winning little gold statues in Hollywood for his performance. Because, with the way he treated me...the way his eyes lit up when he looked in my direction...it truly made me feel...
I don't think I've ever felt special before. Outside of my mom, that is. This was different though. So alien to everything that I ever could have expected from someone so stunningly beautiful.
Am I sighing out loud? I'm trying not to. I'll keep that under control. How hard is it to breathe normally? It used to be so easy before Brody came my way.
It floored me that Adam could be around someone so perfect, so utterly unreal, and not 'get it', you know? How does Adam not feel what I'm feeling right now? Is a person's sexuality soooo powerful that it's able to block out the most heart devouring emotions and the most brazen display of untainted beauty ever imagined by the human experience? I mean...come *ON*! He's GOT to see it! Brody is just...sighhh...he's just too cool to take for granted.
Way too cool....
"You ok?" Brody asked softly. There was no reason for him to say it, really, but I guess he just wanted me to be comfortable. Who knows with him? He was just...hehehe....oh GOD, what is he DOING to me right now???
"Yeah..." I moaned, just above a whisper.
"K. Just checking." He said with a grin. I swear...I totally melted inside when I heard him say that. Especially when he reached out to touch my shoulder. That was...you know...neat.
Adam might have suspected that something was up, even if he had no idea what it was. But, lucky for the both of us, Sam hurried over to catch up with us as always at that particular moment. He was a bit later than usual today, and he didn't seem to be too happy. Sam didn't have much of a 'game face' when it came to how he was feeling. His thin little pink lips were all pouty and weird looking, and Adam beat me to asking him what his problem was.
Sam said, "My dumb ol' parents are forcing me to go back to the dentist to make a nasty plaster mold of my teeth this weekend. I think they're going to make me get braces or something. I'll just BET you that's what they're up to!"
Adam snickered a little bit, and I don't know why I did it, but I had to giggle a little bit myself. Adam chuckled, "It won't be that bad. You'll be all shiny and weird. Like a cyborg...but with fucked up teeth!" I think it was an involuntary reaction to the comment that made Same think that he could suddenly punch Adam in the arm and not instantly get a slug in return with double the force.
"Owwwww!!!" He pouted. "You guys SUCK!" I have to admit, I felt kind of bad for the little imp. He had the most adorable pout ever on his face, still rubbing his slim shoulder from the impact.
"Maybe you'll get away with a regular check up and a cleaning." Brody said. "I doubt they'd suddenly drop the horror of braces on you without some kind of warning, right?"
Sam thought about it for a quick moment. "You think so?" I'm sure it was just wishful thinking on his part, but Sam seemed desperate to find any excuse not to believe it.
Brody shrugged his shoulders, "You never know. If you've got enough good karma built up, maybe you'll dodge the bullet on this one. Anything's possible."
Hehehe, Sam smiled brightly, and then turned to Adam to say, "Yeah! Anything's possible, asshole!" Before whimpering out loud and jumping behind me for protection before getting another slug in the same shoulder.
My eyes connected with Brody's for a moment, and my heart swelled up all over again. It was just so easy for him to bring joy to the people around him. And that's saying a lot, coming from me.
Why did this feel so...so dangerous to me? I was in love. There was no doubt about it. But...the more I enjoyed the sensation of truly being appreciated by another person...the more terrifying the emotion became. I was visibly shaking as I tried to walk forward in a straight line and not let on that I was a bubbling cauldron of total chaos inside. What was I getting myself into? Why can't I let goof the fear? Why can't I at least TRY...for Brody's sake if not my own? I would think it would have been a piece of cake to just go into total autopilot and fall head over heels for Brody without question. I thought that his not-so-subtle invitation to be a part of his life would come as some huge relief, and that I'd finally be able to break down the barriers surrounding my heart. That I could scream my feelings from the highest mountain top without any shame at all. But...as much as I want it to be that simple...it just...isn't.
I guess I built a stronger, darker, personal prison than I thought I had. And now I'm stuck in it. It's all I know. All I am used to. Stepping a foot outside? The daylight alone would blind me for sure.
The four of us got to school about ten minutes early. I guess we didn't goof around as much as we usually did and made better time. Sam had to part ways first, as he had to trot off to the Freshman wing of the building, but as Adam and Brody walked by my side to our lockers...I found myself almost wishing that Adam had taken off too. Scary as it is...something about this feeling in your heart just makes you selfish sometimes.
The air became thick around me as I faced the threat of having to be away from Brody's bright eyes and charming smile again. Every minute I spent without him was one of relentless anticipation. The thought of him walking away to go be beautiful somewhere with somebody else was just downright depressing to me. I'm not even remotely exaggerating when I say that it hurt. I could feel the ache growing in my heart the moment we started to say our goodbyes.
The three of us were kind of standing there in the hallway, and I felt clumsy and awkward as I fought to keep from looking Brody directly in the eye. Adam looked back and forth between us. I noticed a slightly confused wrinkle form in his brow, and I wondered if Adam would give us a moment alone together or if I'd have to walk away before he suspected that something was up.
'Go away!' I thought. 'Just...let me say goodbye to Brody with the boyish blush he so clearly deserves for making my life some kind of surreal fantasy. I cleared my throat, and turned to Adam. "Well, I guess I'll see you at lunch."
"Cool. For sure." Adam replied...but...he didn't go anywhere. Was he waiting for Brody? Why couldn't he just...you know...'skidaddle', or something?
"Well...yeah..." I sighed. "See ya...."
"Later." Adam said. And I had to sadly force myself to walk away without saying a last minute farewell to the boy of my dreams. It's ok though. Maybe we can make up for it later. It's not like I expected him to like...kiss me or anything. I just...I don't know. I kind of wanted to...um...let him know that I was thinking about him too. That's all. I just wanted him to know.
Brody gave me a wave, and found the courage to look away and walk the rest of the way to class...knowing that I wouldn't be able to connect with him again until lunch. It already seemed like it was going to be an eternity until I had any excuse to smile at all...but what else could I do but pray that my heart would keep finding valid reasons to beat without him near.
Helpless. That's how I felt. Silently helpless. My emotions were no longer under my control. For all of my years of practice and discipline...hiding myself away...Brody had broken it down in a matter of weeks. My sense of balance was getting seriously unstable. I never knew if I was going to be able to speak or not. Able to walk straight or not. Able to focus or not. Hell, I couldn't even regain control over my own erection anymore. It sprang to attention at his beck and call. Even when that beck and call was imaginary. I found a slight sense of panic rush into my bloodstream as the realization hit me...I was falling apart, and there was nothing that I could do about it.
And yet...there was another side to this pandemonium...
Something that struck me as more exhilarating than frightening.
I noticed it in my last morning period before lunch. We had a pop quiz that I was able to breeze through pretty quickly, and had to sit and wait for everyone else in the class to catch up. My thoughts became possessed by Brody all over again, as all of my quiet moments are. I felt a fear like I had never known before. A tension. My father's voice was right there like it had always been. Telling me that I wasn't good enough. Not pretty enough. Not smart enough. That I was a complete idiot for even entertaining the thought that someone like Brody would even bother to spit on me, much less love me. I heard that voice and there was a time when it would have sent me running for the hills. There was a time when I would have let it smother my senses and snatch the voice right out of my throat...causing me to cower in terror and surround myself with a shell strong enough to keep me from feeling anything at all. It was safe. So very safe.
But something different happened this time.
I heard the voice and I knew what I was supposed to do. I knew how to duck and cover and dodge and maneuver around whatever it was that made me so uncomfortable. I had trained myself to ignore it. I had practiced the art of retreat to the point of perfection, and wore a mask convincing enough to sneak by the scary stuff undetected. But...not this time. Something about Brody and the time that we spent together yesterday...it protected me. It shielded me with a golden voice all its own, and it whispered words of encouragement and confidence into parts of my soul that never knew such things could exist. I had to physically put my hand up to my chest in the middle of class, feeling my heart pounding as I began to tremble with the beginnings of an actual resistance. A rejection of the sickness inside of me. Brody's smile allowed me to believe. It empowered me. And as I found myself tuning out my father's words of hatred and disgust...my eyes began to water up. I don't know why, they just did. I secretly wiped the tears away so no one else would see, but my breathing got short, and the shaking got worse. But it was a happy reaction. A triumph of sorts. My spirit had been 'broken' for so long that I had given up on ever mending it again. I didn't even see the point in trying. After all, even I could fix myself...who would care? You know?
Brody's love had become the answer to that question. He became my goal. My purpose. For once, I felt worthy of being better. How can you feel that for the first time and not be totally overwhelmed by the concept? More tears. It was hard to stop. So hard.
But I smiled all the way through it.
Heh...I'm a 'somebody'. Can you believe it? There's somebody out there thinking about me right now, and soon...he's going to be close enough for me to reach out and touch.
Something about that is just sooooo beyond me.
The funny thing is...when that period was over and my eyes were dry, I jumped up out of my seat and scampered all the way down to the cafeteria as though I was collecting the bounty from a winning lottery ticket. I was giddy and nervous, my eyes darting around me so fast that I wouldn't have been able to focus a single boy's face if I tried. Mere seconds felt like days...waiting to see that smile. That amazing smile. I was sure that I'd rattle myself to pieces if he didn't pop up somewhere soon. Please hurry. Please?
And then...there he was. Walking towards the cafeteria in a group of other students, his aura glowing brighter than every last one of them. I felt the burden of a bashful blush take over me, practically pressing my back up against a nearby wall so hard that it was difficult to breathe. But when he saw me...wow. When he saw me, he smiled, and he picked up the pace until he was right there in front of me. My own personal celebrity. And as soon as he said, "Hi..." I...I looked down at my feet with a flitter of giggles...and then I peeked up into his eyes, and nervously reached out a hand to touch his flat stomach. Hehehe, I don't know why I did it. I guess it just felt good to know that he was real. Solid. And not some hallucination created by some sort of psychotic break.
His shirt was soft. Or...maybe it was Brody that was soft. It's hard to tell sometimes.
"Are you waiting for somebody?" Brody asked.
My blush deepened. I just shook my head at first, but then I forced myself to speak. "Nope. Just you." I practically swooned from saying the words out loud, but it felt good. I doubt that anyone could actually call it 'flirting', but considering the turmoil going on in my heart at that moment, I thought it was a pretty decent effort on my part.
"I'm sorry if I kept you waiting for too long. I returned some books to the library and had to take the long way down, so..."
"No! It's ok. Really." I said. "I wasn't going anywhere until you got here. Promise." He smiled at me, and I looked away. Snickering to myself as I tried to peel myself away from that wall. Breathlessly, I mumbled, "You ready?"
"After you, cutie." He grinned. Hehehe, I got a tingle when he said that.
Adam did join us a few minutes after we sat down at a table, and Sam kind of stopped by briefly with a small package of cookies and an apple juice. But I already knew where the vast majority of my attention was the most concentrated. We shared more intimate glances across that table than we ever had before. And you want to know something? It actually got easier for me to hold eye contact for just a little bit longer. I mean, before, staring into those bright eyes for too long would have made me feel like throwing up. But now? As queasy as I was about it, that bright light empowered me. I felt his love surging through me. And I was determined to return it to him. It almost hurt, you know? But I did it. I shared my heart with someone truly amazing, and he gave it back to me. The fear was melting away. Slowly...but steadily. How is this possible?
"ZACK! Dude, what's WITH you?" Adam said, snapping me out of my hypnotic gaze. "Jesus!"
"I'm sorry. What?"
"MOVIES! This weekend? Are you coming with us, or what?"
I kind of glanced over at Brody to see what his plan was first. I know, I know...I'm totally whipped right now. But I'm sure it will wear off....eventually.
Brody gave me a gentle nod, and I said, "Um...yeah. Sure. I'm game."
"Thank you!" Adam grunted. "If you keep spacing out on me like this, I'm gonna tell the school nurse you need Ritalin or something. It's like talking to a 100 year old dog with you these days."
"Hehehe, just got a lot on my mind, I guess." I answered, my eyes gravitating back to Brody's again. I can't believe that I was actually blessed with the chance to kiss those perfect lips of his. They have the neatest shape. Wow...
"Will one of you guys pay for me? My allowance doesn't cover movie tickets anymore. Especially if you see anything in 3D..." Sam pouted.
"I'll get ya, man." Adam said. "But I'll need two blowjobs up front, though."
It was a comment that got both me and Brody to snap our heads in their direction and laugh. What an image THAT proposition put in my mind! Sam responded by tossing the wrapper from his cookies at Adam's head, but he hardly had anything to worry about. Sam may be younger than the rest of us, but he knew he was family as far as we were concerned. We wouldn't leave him out, no matter what. I'm surprised he even bothered to ask. Adam would pay his way if for no other reason than to have someone to pick on the entire time. Besides, he was taking the hint that Brody and I were a bit too preoccupied with one another to be much fun without a playmate of his own to tag along. I wasn't trying to make this whole thing awkward, but Brody didn't make it easy. He doesn't make anything easy.
It wasn't until after the lunch bell rang that I realized how few words I actually spoke out loud during the whole 45 minute period. Weird. I could have sworn that Brody and I had spoken volumes to one another, but it might have been through furtive glances and tilted smirks alone. So much of my day had been just 'inside my head' today...it's hard to connect with the real world in a way that I could consider functional. But I was happy to see Adam practically put Sam in a headlock as he dragged him away from the lunchroom...leaving me and Brody a few sweet moments alone to talk to one another.
One of the first things he said to me was, "Zack...you know, if you've got something else to do this weekend...I mean, you don't have to come along to the movies or anything if you're busy..."
"I'm not busy!" I blurted out.
"Well, I mean...I know that you sometimes have other things to take care of that keeps you from hanging out all the time..."
"Not THIS weekend, I don't!" I blurted out again. I wasn't turning this down. Not at all. If I had to knock my father unconscious with a baseball bat swing to the back of his fucking cranium...then so be it! But I was GOING to the movies with my friends this weekend! The gods be damned!
Brody raised an eyebrow and chuckled playfully to himself. "Well...ok. Hehehe! If you're all...excited about it..."
"I AM!" I said. "And I'll be there. Anywhere you want to go...I'll be there. I just..." I was gushing. I knew that I was gushing. And I tried to choke back the emotion a bit to keep myself from looking TOO desperate. "...I just...I think it'll be fun. I want to have fun. It's been a while. I know it'll be a good time...as long as you're there with me." Ok, so...there it is. I expressed interest. I spoke p for myself. I made plans to get together. It's not easy, not by any means...but I did it anyway. He knows. Like I said...I just need him to know how I feel. And I need to be the one who tells him.
I want him to believe in me...the same way I'm learning to believe in him.
Brody had the most adorable hint of a blush in his cheeks. He was SO much better at hiding it than I was! I probably wouldn't have even noticed if I hadn't been staring at his beautiful FACE so hard!
He giggled and asked, "I can pay for you too if you want. You know...if you're willing to work out the same deal Adam and Sam have."
With a near silent gasp, I let my mouth drop open and said, "Brody...hehehe, omigod..."
"What?" He asked. "He gets some naughty time, and I don't? I hardly think that's fair."
Normally, I would have laughed it off and changed the subject, but this time I said, "Well...I didn't exactly say 'no'. Hehehe!"
Okayyyy...so that made the jitters in my stomach a MILLION times worse! But they were instantly relieved when I saw Brody's jaw drop with just as much surprise as mine had a moment ago. Hahaha! Priceless!
He was like, "Oh wow...that is HOT!" This time, Brody wasn't as skillful at hiding his flushed cheeks from me. The shade of pink deepened considerably, and I laughed as I got to watch him fidget awkwardly in front of me for a change. "You have got a NAUGHTY side, Zack! Hehehe, where has this been hiding all this time???"
I shrugged my shoulders. I was a little embarrassed for saying it...but I didn't regret it. And I didn't take it back either.
That's when Brody's voice softened a bit, and he asked, "Say...you know, if you wait around for a little bit after school...I mean...maybe I can walk you home or something? Just so we can..talk. Or whatever." I think he saw the look on my face change. Even if it was meant to be subtle. "We won't have to wait until tomorrow to talk again. I just...I like talking to you. I like spending time with you. We could take our time...make an afternoon out of it. You know?"
I lowered my eyes again. He seemed hopeful, but as visions of my daddy's belt or his fists or just a square kick from his shoe entered my mind, I told him, "I...I can't. I've got stuff to do. So...I've gotta go straight home and...take care of things." Was my mask working? Would it ever work again, now that Brody had broken it? I couldn't be sure.
"Oh. Well...ok." He said. "Some other time then? Maybe?"
Taking a chance, I said, "Maybe I can come over to your house or something before the movie this weekend? Just to...um...spend some time together." That's how he put it, right? Spend some time together? I hope that means what I think it means. "I would like that a lot. I...I kinda...miss you when you're not around." There was a brief silence, and I noticed that Brody's smile had been diminished slightly since the words left my lips. Did I worry? Of COURSE, I worried! Did I say something wrong? Something insulting or offensive? Had I gone beyond the boundaries he was hoping to set for me? He probably thought I was 'dirty' now, didn't he? I was dirty and creepy and just...an awful person to be around. My 'training' had taught me to jump to that conclusion in situations like this. It was then that the panic returned. Wondering if I had allowed my ego to create a margin of error that was much more forgiving than I deserved.
Brody embraced the moment.
And with more passion than I expected him to.
"I miss you when you're not around too." He said. "Zack...I...I really want to..." He looked around at the people walking back and forth around us, and he pulled me further towards the corner of the hallway where...I guess he didn't expect anybody to hear him...not that he cared much anyway. And he said..."...I don't want to push too hard or make you feel weird about any of this, but...but..." He stopped for a moment. He seemed like he was struggling. The way I struggled to talk to him most of the time. But why was HE nervous??? It was 'just' me. What did he have to lose, other than a pest pulling on his shirt? Still, he said, "...Zack...I really want to be...'yours'. And vice versa. Not just for a spontaneous moment or two. But, like...for always. I mean, does that make sense?"
Did it? I wasn't really sure. I lied and nodded anyway. "Yeah. I mean...well..I think...well...um...yeah. Totally."
Brody still seemed a bit uneasy about my response. So he said, "Zack, I'm not kidding here. I'm not trying to influence or manipulate you in any way. I PROMISE. But...if you feel like I feel right now...nothing would make me happier than knowing that you felt good about this. That we both felt good about this. We can slow down if you want, I just...I want you with me. I've wanted that since the first time you ever spoke to me. Maybe even earlier." He said. "I'm not perfect. But...if you give me the chance, and stop running out on me every time I give you a kiss, hehehe...I think we'd be good together. I'm willing to try. You know...if you are."
Was I being silent? I think I was. I could tell from his reaction. What do I say? How I do I not say the WRONG thing??? There it was again. That sick feeling in the back of my throat. What do I do? What do I say????
"I...think we'd be good together too." I said. I swear that my tongue was quivering when I mumbled the words under my breath! But...I said it. And the only question now was....