My Only Escape

Chapter 27

Practically reeling from my sudden display of intimacy in a public place, Brody moved in to give me an excited hug around my shoulders. I can't tell you how incredible it is to have his lithe, athletic, body wrapped around me this way. Being able to hold him like this, to feel the subtlety of his body heat mixing with mine...to be able to feel the soft muscle of his slender middle pressed against me like this. God...once you hug a boy like Brody...you never want to let him go.

"You totally know how too catch a guy off guard, dude!" He said, giving me a brief, but tender, kiss on the side of my neck as he hugged me. "Thanks, Zack..."

Ok...I was starting to fall apart now. I can't explain it...not with words that would make sense to anybody who hadn't felt it before for themselves...but I, literally, wanted to cry. Not just get misty eyed or let a few stray tears roll down my cheeks...but actually grip both of Brody's shoulders and openly weep until this tsunami of unrestricted emotions had officially drowned us both and swept us away in its irresistible undertow. Brody's love strengthened me and weakened me simultaneously sometimes. I wasn't always sure how to handle it.

The embrace might have only lasted for thirty seconds...maybe less...but to me, it felt like an entire holiday weekend spent in this beautiful boy's arms. Something strange was happening to me, and I couldn't figure out why. Or, to be more honest...why I thought I deserved such a rewarding release from the pain that had been poisoning me for oh so long. The tight knot in my stomach was slowly beginning to unravel. My dilapidated confidence was trying to unfold. My sore and battered heart was beginning to let go. Brody was the first person since my mom that I felt I could lean on without the worry of having him drop me flat on my face. He held me up so that I could stand on solid ground again. A huge difference from feeling like I was always lost in an endless freefall on a daily basis...never knowing when I was going to finally shatter my weary bones on the unforgiving ground below.

Brody gave me love so freely...so unconditionally...that it seemed unnatural when compared to everything that I had grown so accustomed to. Which should be seen as a GOOD thing! And yet...something about his affection made me truly hate myself for not being good enough to warrant such a pure and willing display of endearment when I hadn't earned it. I simply wasn't worthy of the reward. I wasn't ready for the blessing I had been given.

Didn't he understand how worthless I was? By having him overlook everything that was clearly 'wrong' with me...I felt like I was deceiving him. I craved the knowledge it would take to get him to hate me the way the rest of the world did. If for no other reason than to spare him the pain and suffering of facing the disappointment and shame of falling for my bullshit in the first place.

Please, Brody...get away from me. I'm damaged goods! Get away before I end up hurting you too!

That was one side of my brain...

The other side? It welcomed the deception. My wounded heart wrapped itself up in the fantasy like the warm swaddling blankets applied to an infant on a brisk Winter evening. And despite my currently warped sense of logic...it refused to let go.

My bottom lip began to quiver, and my throat seemed to lock up as my eyes burned with the effort to hold my tears back. All I did was give Brody a kiss. Just...a little peck on the cheek. And he treated it like it was the greatest gift he had ever been given in his life. He made it 'OK' for me to be me. He made me feel like I could relax, and laugh, and stare into his beautifully shaped, bright hazel, eyes...without rejection. Without judgement. I didn't have to work my ass off to get Brody to appreciate me. I didn't have to stress myself out thinking that the flaws and mistakes that make up the 'real me' were going to turn him away, and cause him to abandon me forever. Or abuse me to the point of finally breaking me open.

In fact...the truth is...

Brody seemed to love me for absolutely no reason at all.

Do you have any idea what that feels like? Because, I sure didn't. Not before my sweet angel fell from the sky and made me feel like I was almost good enough to get an equal slice of happiness in my life too. Just like normal people do.

This is too much. I don't think I'm going to be able to keep myself from crying if I don't suppress this feeling and shove it back down into soles of my dirty, worn out, shoes where it belongs. You've come SOOOO far, Zack! Please, don't start believing in fairy tales now.

As soon as Brody let me go, I turned away from him. Pretending to look at one of the shelves to the right of us, distracting him with, "Oh...what's that? That looks kinda cool." It looked like some kind of plastic alien UFO type of toy with flashing lights and sounds on it. Whatever. I don't know what it was, exactly...but it didn't matter. The goal was to get Brody to turn and look at it while I used the back of my wrist to wipe the watery excess out of my eyes.

Mission accomplished.

Now...if only I could control the darn sniffles that came along with them, I'd be ok.

Straighten up. Mask in place. There we go. Alright...ready to rock.

Brody and I spent the next ten minutes going from aisle to aisle, finding some of the strangest toys I've ever seen to gawk at and play with. Hehehe, you know...half of this stuff was probably a big waste of money...but I kind of wanted them anyway. I don't know, just to sit on my desk or a shelf somewhere. The marketing was working its magic on me, and maybe it was the colors or the gimmicks or the barely recognizable movie tie-ins that got to me...but if I had some extra money in the bank at that moment, I might have picked up a few toys, if for no other reason than to relive the nostalgia of having Brody bring me here on a school day in the first place. Hehehe, so cool. So very cool.

But...even some of the most beautiful paradise spots on planet Earth...

...Have to experience a storm some time. How long would it take for us to experience ours?

Not that I didn't enjoy Brody's adorable antics while we traveled from one side of the store to the other. Hehehe, because Brody's divine smile can make almostanything a 'swoon-worthy' experience. He just has that magical effect on me, you know? He actually handed me a hula hoop to see if I'd be able to work one with my hips. Hehehe, let me just put an end to the mystery for you...I couldn't. Brody kept egging me on, and I kept trying, but I just don't have the coordination and athletic ability to operate something as simple as a hula hoop. Especially if it's under pressure. Best to give up and leave that to the professionals, right?

However, Brody surprised me by being able to wind his slim hips around skillfully enough to keep that hoop going for much longer than I ever expected. Hehehe, I had to actually smack the hoop with my hand to get him to mess up and let it drop down to his feet! Ugh, he made it look so easy! I wish I could do that.

"Jealous?" He giggled.

"Quiet, you!" I smiled. "Big show off!" Then I asked, "How the heck are you so good at this? That's not normal."

Brody wrapped his arms around my waist, and I turned around to hide my blush from him. But he only squeezed me tighter, hugging me from behind. And he kissed me on the side of my neck as he said, "Practice. Lots of practice. That's how I do it. How do you think I keep my strokes so smooth and sexy when we make love, babe? Hehehe!" And I felt him slap me on the butt as he sensually sucked my earlobe into his mouth.

With both of his arms around me, I slapped his hands and giggled, "Brody! Geez...they have CAMERAS in here!"

But he just said, "Doesn't matter to me. How about you? Do you care?"

"I do if it means us getting in trouble..."

"We won't get in trouble. Just...come on...have fun with me. K? Smile for a little while. I love seeing you happy."

What am I doing here? What am I hoping to achieve by letting my love for Brody consume me the way it has so far? I wanted to anchor myself back into the quicksand reality of my life and realize that there was no way for Brody to ever really love me the way I wish he could...but my emotions fought me every step of the way. They were forcing me to live in the moment...without any thought towards the consequences and horrible suffering that was sure to follow once my beautiful icon found himself somebody else to shower with love and affection. Somebody that he just, one day, decided he loved more than he could ever love a loser like me...

Sorry. I'm depressing myself again. I really need to stop doing that.

I'll just ignore it for now, and do my best to live in the moment like he does. I'm in love...I should appreciate it for all that it's worth before it inevitably fades away and turns to disappointment and sorrow. That's how this story ends for me, isn't it? I can't imagine it ending any other way at this point.

Someone will steal Brody away from me at some point. And the only thing that I can take comfort in is knowing that I had his undivided attention for a short time. A time without rivals. Without doubt. For a few brief moments...I had a boy that fulfilled every dream that I've ever had. And it was awesome! But...was ultimately destined to fall apart.

I am trying to prepare myself for the 'hurt' of it all...but it's hard to do. When he gets tired of me and goes after another boy....it's going to shatter my heart into a million pieces. But I'm going to try to keep my head up, regardless. I promise. I'll wish him well. I owe him that much for giving me a break from my emotional nightmare of a life, after all.

For now, though? Hehehe, it was fun to have Brody enjoy my company the way he did. And his love was so contagious, sometimes! He truly knew how to part the storm clouds hovering over my head for a while and let me experience the beauty of a blue, sunshine, sky for a few minutes at a time.

I was thankful for that.

At one point, Brody tossed me a plastic samurai sword in the middle of a toy aisle. "Hehehe! What are you doing?"

He grabbed a sword of his own, and he tried not to giggle as he said, "Prepare to die! You have offended my family! And you have disgraced and dishonored your teachers! Defend yourself...if you can!"

"Hahaha, what the...???"

The next thing I knew, Brody was coming at me with a toy sword, and I was forced to block as best as I could. More of my guarded, self conscious, nature began to uncoil itself. I just...I gave myself over to the playful joy and thrill of the moment. Hahaha! Believe it or not, I actually began to laugh out loud as Brody and I dueled it out in the middle of the toy store aisle. It started out being safe and friendly and just...fun, you know? But as we got more into it, our swings got a little bit faster, our strikes got a little bit harder, our laughter got a little bit louder...and it quickly escalated to us making an actual 'disturbance' in the store. It's hard to notice the rest of the world when you're in the graceful presence of a boy like Brody. I had almost forgotten what it was like to truly laugh from the core of my belly like this.

Then...while thoroughly enjoying ourselves, we accidentally knocked over a small shelf of action figures, and they spilled all over the floor. At first, we both covered our mouths in shock, but the expression on his face was so cute and so funny that I couldn't hold back a flurry of infatuated giggles at the sight of it. And Brody started laughing right after I did. "Dude! What the hell???"

I said, "I didn't do it! YOU did it!"

"No, I didn't! I just SAW you swing your sword over and knock this shelf down! Hahaha!"

"LIAR!!!"

Brody giggled and said, "I hope to God that you're good at 'other' things...because you're a terrible swordsman! Hehehe!"

"WHAT?!?!"

"I'm just letting you know, as a friend. It's, actually, painful for me to tell you this...but you're a lame samurai, Zack. Just...lame." I blushed with a hearty chuckle as I gave him a little push.

"You suck." I said.

"Hehehe, not as much as you do!" Brody replied, and picked up a couple of the action figure boxes that we had knocked over. "You see this guy? This is a REAL samurai! Tatsuro Myoki? SO much better than you are! Hehehe!"

"That's not fair!" I snickered. "He's a VAMPIRE!"

But Brody corrected me. "No! He's a vampire slayer! He's got skills, but he's still human. C'mon, man! How do you not know this already?"

"Whatever..." I said, and we exchanged a look that was like...wow. It was brief, but it was the kind of look that got your heart beating all crazy and out of control, you know? And that's when Brody leaned in and gave me a kiss on the lips. Nothing overly erotic, but so sweet that it gave e a bad case of the wiggles anyway.

"We made a mess..." Was the only thing that I could say to kill the clumsy silence between us at that moment. And he kissed me AGAIN, making me turn an even deeper shade of red in the face before he bent down to pick up some of the merchandise that we had spread all over the toy store floor! It took me a moment to follow suit..but a few seconds later, the security guard came walking around the corner to see the mess we had made, not to mention noticing the noise and the 'laugh out loud' antics we had been bothering them with for the past 45 minutes or so.

And while Brody was laughing with delight as he walked forward and told us, "Ok, that's it. I've got to ask you boys to leave." I suddenly felt this dark storm moving in to hover over my head and possibly do me some serious harm, if I wasn't careful. "Let's go. Both of you." He said.

This paralyzing fear of authority suddenly kicked in, and...I'll be honest...it terrified me. I couldn't tell you why...but it did. It was like, the security had morphed into my father, and the idea of 'NOT getting in trouble' became the only survival instinct that my panicked emotions were willing to pay any attention to.

I could feel myself trembling. Even while Brody kept laughing and picking up vampire action figures off of the floor. "Hehehe, we're sorry! It was an accident. I swear." Brody giggled.

"I'm sure it was. But we still need you to go." The guard said. "Let's go, boys. Come on." He was basically kicking us out of the store, and Brody made a mild attempt to tell him that we would behave if he let us stay for a while longer, but when the security guard said, "If you boys don't leave, then we're going to have to take you in back and contact your parents." I felt my entire body go cold.

Stiff...and cold.

Without saying another word, I suddenly went into a self induced panic, and I turned away from the mess of action figures we made on the floor to head for the front door of the toy store.

Contact your parents.

That's what he said. Contact my parents.

Imagine what would happen to me if my dad got that phone call!!! He would, literally, twist my neck until it broke! He'd MURDER me!!! I can't be a part of this! I just...I can't! My very life, my MOM'S life, depends on NOT having that random toy store security guard call my house! I have to run away! I have to...I have to leave! Omigod....

OMIGOD!!!!

"Zack! Dude...it's ok..." Brody called out to me, but I was so terrified that my body was on autopilot, and I found myself out in the toy store parking lot, my chest heaving with hysterical gasps of empty breath as I bent over and put my hands on my knees...fighting off the fatigue of being so scared of what could happen if we got caught.

Oh GOD...what happens if we got caught???

Brody came outside shortly after, and he gave me a look as though he really didn't understand why I was so freaked out. He laughed it off as though it was no big deal. As though he was still riding high on the idea of us being total delinquents in a public place. But...to me...this was flirting with real danger. SERIOUS danger!

One phone call to my house could mean an escalation of my everyday abuse that could put me in the hospital...or worse. It would be unfair of me to expect Brody to fully understand that, but...

...Oh God, please forgive me! You have SUCH an advantage over me when it comes to these things!!!

I'm trying, Brody! I just...I guess I need to try harder.

I'll do it. For you.

Only for you.