It felt soooo good to be back in dry clothes again. Not that I didn't enjoy being completely naked with Brody, but I'm sure it would have looked weird if I had been strutting around in the buff with his mom in the house over the last few hours.
However, as she bundled up to take me home that night, I found myself getting all nervous again. I felt ashamed, and I don't think Brody quite remembered why.
He had his shoes and jacket on when he came back into the room. I made sure to turn my back to the doorway and secretly dry my eyes. The same way I did at home. NO sniffles. My father could always tell when I sniffled.
"Zack? You alright?" He asked.
His mom called out to us from the front door. "You boys ready? I don't want to get you home too late, Zack."
Brody looked down at my sock feet, and my bare shoulders, and he realized what my hesitation was all about. "Dude...I'm sorry. I totally forgot."
I turned to face him again. I hope he can't see the hurt in my eyes. "Is she going to ask questions?" I asked.
He gave me the strangest look. "Umm...yeah. Probably. But it's no big deal. You got locked out of your house, right? It happens."
"I know but....but is she gonna, like...?" I didn't know how to phrase it. I couldn't find a series of safe words that would keep my secrets a secret. This afternoon was soooo beautiful. It would totally SUCK if I ruined it now by being stupid.
I think Brody was confused by my behavior, but shrugged it off as he walked over to his bedroom closet. "I don't think I have any shoes for you to wear, other than my soccer cleats. You could put those on..."
"No. Brody, thanks, but...I'll be fine."
"Fine? Hehehe, you're lucky you didn't catch pneumonia the first time around..."
"Seriously. It's ok. I just don't want your mom to ask me any questions..."
"She's not gonna care, dude. Really. But she's not gonna let you walk barefoot in the rain either." Brody grinned, rumbling through his closet to eventually tossing out one shoe, and then the other a few seconds after. "Here. They're a bit small because they're old, but you should be able to cram your feet in them long enough to get you in and out of my mom's car."
I looked down at the shoes...and I felt humiliated. A voice in my head seemed to say in a mocking tone, "Go ahead, loser. Take the shoes. It'll give him something to laugh about with your friends tomorrow before school. Take 'em. TAKE 'em!"
I know that I was blushing. I could feel the shame heating my face. But better that then the questions that would batter up against my emotional barricades if I were to try to walk out of this house without them. So I slipped my feet into them slowly, and refused to look Brody in the eye while I did so. They were a little tight, but the real pain at that moment existed only in my heart.
That pesky voice in my head told me, "There ya go, buddy. Now don't you look fancy? Why don't you model them for him. Let him know how much control he has over you. Give him the satisfaction of making a baby out of you, so he can figure out how worthless you are. Do it now, before you sink any deeper into this ridiculous LIE of a relationship."
Even when Brody leaned in to kiss me briefly on the cheek before heading out of his room, expecting me to follow...I didn't raise my gaze from that carpeted floor. I just figured...the sooner I got home, the better.
Brody's mom couldn't help but notice that I didn't have a jacket on as Brody and I rushed out to the car. The ice cold rain seemed to serve as a reminder of what was waiting for me back home. Indulging in the most erotic fantasies concerning Brody, I had fallen asleep at the wheel. And I was heading straight for a brick wall. What a wake up call.
I jumped into the back seat, and was happy to see Brody run around to the other side of the car to hop in the back beside me. His mother did ask a few questions, as mothers always do...but she didn't press the issue too hard. I think Brody must have given her some quiet signal to hush up and drive. Hehehe! The idea brought the most docile of smiles to my face. A smile that brightened slightly, when he silently took a hold of my hand, and held it down low where his mom couldn't see. At least, I don't think she could. It was dark and raining and the defroster was running...she was multitasking enough as it was without checking the rearview mirror to see if her son and another boy were holding hands.
Gentle. His grip was soooo very gentle. The way a newborn infant would reach up to grab the tip of your finger when pressed into its palm. Soft, but with purpose. There something sensual about it. Especially the few times that he rubbed his thumb lightly over the back of my knuckles. Back and forth it slid, with just the right rhythm. I couldn't believe that after all the sex we had had that afternoon and part of the evening...it only took him holding my hand to create within me the same state of heightened arousal.
The ice attempted to reclaim its dominance over the surface of my heart...but Brody's smile kept me warm. We were barely paying any attention to the small talk coming from the front seat. We were to wrapped up in each other. We shared a sexy little secret, Brody and I. And it was hard for either one of us to keep from giggling ourselves silly over it. Is that weird, or what?
"It's...right up here." told his mom, sad that the short trip was coming to the end. Even though it was freezing outside, I think I would have much rather taken Brody's bike back to my house again. It would have taken twice as long. "Thanks so much for the ride. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it." I told her, and with a heavy sigh, I let go of Brody's hands, and opened the door.
"You're welcome over any time you like, Zack." She replied.
And as Brody got out to move up front, he grinned at me with a wicked smirk and a wink. "Yeah, Zack. Anytime. Hehehe!" He made a silly little kissy face at me before closing the door, and it tickled me all over. Hehehe!
Funny, how he can always make me smile so unexpectedly.
Even when I'm being stupid. God, I love you, Brody! Sooooo much!
I backed up towards my back porch steps, waving back at the car and hoping that Brody's mom would drive off and just leave me some time to muster up the courage to walk through that door. But even though I gave her, like, a hundred different signals to not worry about me an just go on...the car sat still and waited for me to get in the house.
I guess I should be happy that they weren't eager to leave me outside in the rain and the dark, just in case I was still locked out. But since they were waiting, that meant that I couldn't really stall for too long. I couldn't run around to the front of the house to see if my mom was parked on the street somewhere. Not without looking too weird. So...I pushed my way past the paralyzing fear in my heart, and I walked up the stairs to timidly knock on my own back door.
Please don't let my father answer the door! Please, oh please, oh PLEASE, don't let my father answer the door!
Thank god, my mother snatched the back door open and pulled me inside. I was able to give Brody and his mom a very brief wave before being yanked into the house that I had been kicked out of just a few hours earlier.
Did they drive away, as soon as the door opened? Who knows? But once that back door slammed itself shut, I found myself locked in my mother's grip, her fingers digging into my shoulders and giving me a firm shake. "Where the hell have you been??? Do you have any idea what time it is???" She said.
It was barely 10:30 at night. I didn't know what she was so freaked out about. "I...I went to a friend's house..."
"A friend? What friend?" She asked. "I called your friends, Zack. I called Adam, I called Sam, I have been worried sick about you."
Well, I certainly couldn't tell her that I spent the afternoon having sex with another boy. "I was with my friend, Brody...th-that's all."
"And you couldn't call one of us and tell us where you were?" She said 'one of us'. That's when I looked over her shoulder to see my father sitting at the kitchen table with his arms crossed, his frown delivered with a silent warning. "Your father said you never came home from school today. He's been just as worried as I have. You don't just vanish on us and not tell us where you're going." She was more worried than angry, but once she came to her senses, she looked down at my feet and asked, "What is this? Who's shoes are those? Oh my God, Zack, where's your jacket? It's pouring rain outside!"
My father stared me right in the eye. He didn't blink once. And a shiver of pure terror ran through me, causing a weakness in the knees. He dared me to tell her what happened. He dared me. The first thought that went through my panicked mind was...
....He'll kill us both if I tell.
There's always a moment in situations like this...where I have to make a choice. Where I wonder if I had the strength to say something. I could finally put an end to this. I can make things safe for me, safe for my mom...life can be different. What would it be like to not have to live in fear ALL the time? What would it be like to not have to hide bruises and scratches and walk around the house in silence for hours because I'm afraid to be noticed? What if I could have a life where I'm not pushed and slapped and PUNCHED and KICKED on a daily basis and made to feel like it was my fault? Where I'm not yelled at and threatened, and made to feel lower than the mud on the bottom of these shoes I'm wearing, that aren't even mine? I think about that....all of it...in that one moment. And I choose whether or not I'm going to finally stand up for myself and get this abusive son of a bitch out of my life for GOOD!!!
The moment passes.
And only terror is left behind in its wake.
The fire inside of me quickly dies out. The voices in my head begin to mock me, laughing at my attempts to be anything more than what I am. A slave to his torment. A worthless piece of unwanted trash that should be thankful that he even cares enough to hate me. That's the disease that he put in me. That's what I can't seem to get around. The more I fight it, the bigger it grows. And the more battles I lose, the more worn out my spirit becomes.
I break eye contact with him, lowering my gaze to the floor. And I felt my heart break as I lied to cover him once again. "I'm sorry, Mom. I didn't think it was that late." I mumbled sadly under my breath. "I guess I lost track of the time."
She sighed, coming down from her parental spaz out. And with a heavy sigh, she said, "Just...you've got to let us know when you're with one of your friends and are planning to stay out this late. Ok? There's too many bad things going on out there for us to not know how to find you."
"I know, Mom. Sorry." I said, and tried to go to my room, but she stopped me.
"Don't you think you should apologize to your father too?"
I felt sick. Physically ill. A part of me had to roll my eyes in disbelief. Another part of me had to grit my teeth in anger. It was sooooo had to hide the humiliation. So hard to keep the mask from breaking. But I tightened up all the muscles in my stomach, and I turned to face him. His mask was better than mine. He actually played the concerned parent, knowing DAMN well that he was the one who threw me out of this house earlier today! But...as much as I hated him for it...I opened my mouth, and I said, "Sorry, Dad." It was the most degrading moment of my life. A shameful disgrace of the highest order. I honestly think a piece of me died having to say that to him in my mother's presence. Because I knew that deep down, he was probably laughing his ass off.
He was right. I am a loser.
My mom stepped aside and let me go to my room, telling me not to track mud in the house. But while I would usually wallow in misery, curling up on the bed to cry myself to sleep...I felt something else inside of me. A little spark. A faint light. Fighting to not be swallowed up by the determined darkness surrounding it. I wasn't quite sure what it was at first, but as I sat on the edge of my bed and used my feet to kick off my shoes...I thought about Brody's smile. I thought about the way he gave me the most flirtatious of grins whenever we were alone. I thought about him helping to mend the scratches on my side, the kissy face he made as I got out of the car, and the way he moaned my name as we made love. And suddenly...something about that made me feel....'ok'.
I can't explain why. It didn't solve anything. It didn't heal any bruises or take back any tears I've shed in the past. But somehow...just knowing that someone so beautiful, so perfect...could actually love somebody like me...
It made me wonder if there was maybe a little something in me to love about myself.
And that...made me feel 'ok'.
I stayed in my room like I did most nights. Door closed. Headphones on. Just trying not to be a bother to anybody. A target. And I was finishing up my English homework when a light tapping came from over my shoulder. I didn't hear the first few knocks, but seeing as my father would have probably just kicked the door open and barged in without asking, I figured it had to be my mom.
"Come in." I said softly, and she peeked her head in for a moment.
"Zach...honey? I want to talk to you for a minute. Ok?" There was worry in her voice. It was restrained though. Almost as if she didn't want me to hear it. But all that her voice didn't say, her eyes spoke in volumes.
I thought she might just ask me a random question through the crack in the door or something. Maybe about what I wanted for dinner tomorrow or something. Or maybe she'd ask me to clean something this coming weekend. You know, 'Mom stuff'.
But instead...she walked into my room and closed the door behind her.
Instantly, my curiosity turned cold on me. What is this? What is she doing?
My mind went wild with paranoid ideas.
What did I do? What did I say? How did I mess up?
She asked me, "Finishing up your homework, huh?"
"Yeah. Almost done. I just have to add a bit more to my essay and write an index for my references. That's all." I could already feel my defenses building up. Trying to build walls around the most private parts of my heart. Making sure that there were no loose bricks, no cracks in the armor that would allow her to see more 'truth' than I was ready for her to see.
My mom looked at my books, then down at my backpack, which was leaning up against my desk right beside me.
There was a short silence.
She sat down at the foot of the bed, which was right next to me. And she looked me right in the eye. "That's funny." She said.
"Your books don't look wet." She said. then she looked at my backpack again. "Your backpack doesn't look wet either." She said.
"Oh...well..it's probably dried off by now." I said, hiding my eyes from her.
Another brief silence.
Then she said, "You know, I don't remember you having your backpack with you when you came in tonight." She looked down beside my chair, and saw my sneakers. "Are those your shoes?"
Feeling a frightening convulsion race through me, I mumbled, "Oh..." I said. "Um...yeah....." I used my foot to push the totally 'dry' shoes further underneath my desk so she wouldn't be able to really examine them any further. But when I think back on it, I was FAR from subtle about it.
My mom waited a moment, and with a concerned sigh, she asked, "Zack? What really happened this afternoon?"
Refusing to look her in the eyes, I mumbled, "I told you. I just went to a friend's house after school and I lost track of the time..."
"Zack...." She said firmly. She looked over at my jacket, hanging on the back of my closet door. "...I suppose you're going to tell me that your jacket didn't get wet in all this rain today either. Something else that you weren't wearing when you came home tonight...."
"Mom...!" I didn't really mean to raise my voice. It was just a stupid defense mechanism that let her know that I wanted to be left alone. She was picking the lock on a door that she didn't want to open. Please, don't ask.
He'll kill us both, Mom.
He'll....He'll kill us both...
She paused for a moment, but then, almost with a pleading tone in her voice, she lightly placed her hand on my arm and said, "Zack....tell me. What happened this afternoon? I know that you were here. I know that you came home. What happened? Baby...? Talk to me."
I kept my eyes down. I just concentrated on the blurry text in the pages of my school book. "I didn't do anything wrong..." I said.
"I didn't say you did anything wrong, Zack..."
"I didn't know it was that late. I was just...having fun..."
"That's not what I'm talking about." She said.
Suddenly....I began to tremble. It was as if there was this strange pressure building inside of me at that moment. A burning scream of built up frustration. Of hopelessness and pain. Fear and secrets. All trying to break me down....so that Earth shattering cry could be heard...just once.
"Zack?" She asked again. "If you have something to tell me..."
"You know what, Mom? I'm sorry, but I've got to get this essay done by tomorrow morning, and I haven't even finished reading the pages yet." I cut her off. I had to peek back over my shoulder at her when I heard the deafening silence that was left behind. Just a quick peek. And then a shameful return to my books.
She hesitated for a moment. And my trembling got worse. But then she stood up, and she hugged me around the shoulders from behind. A tight hug. One that meant more than casual affection. I kept thinking to myself...'Hide it, Zack. Hide it deeper. Where she can't ever find it.' But as the warmth of her embrace was soon accompanied with a loving kiss on the top of my head, I felt the intense pressure of tears as they began to well up in my eyes. I had to hold my breath to fight it. I simply lowered my head, and prayed that she would let me go and leave my room before I broke character.
"I love you. Ok?" She said, giving me another squeeze. "I love you more than anything in the world. Don't ever feel like you can't talk to me. I'm right here. You hear me?"
I was still holding my breath. I couldn't speak. But I nodded, as my face turned red from the train. I wasn't fooling her. I knew that. But she backed away in some attempt to save me some embarrassment, I guess. She walked to the door, but paused before leaving the room. I could feel her eyes on me, and it was almost too hurtful to bear. I slammed my eyes shut, two shimmering rivers of tears sliding down my heated cheeks as I held back a sniffle. Finally...she tapped her fingers on the door a few times, and stepped outside, closing it behind her.
I felt the air rush our of my lungs, and I covered my mouth with both hands as my tears got worse. My stomach began to heave, pushing the air out of me in little puffs, and I reached for some tissues to aid me in the fierce battle to contain the rapidly expanding emotion. Weakly, I fell to the bed on my side, and tried to wait for the feeling to all go away. What else could I do?
Dry backpack. Dry shoes. Dry jacket. I'm an idiot. So stupid. This whole thing is my fault. I just had to challenge my father. I just had to make trouble. It hurt to know that I was putting my mom in danger...
...But if I had to do it all over again...I would. Because shoving my father up against the wall...just that one time...it felt sooooo good.
I didn't leave my room for the rest of the night. I'm not sure if a good night's sleep helped to mend my wounds or not...but the air seemed easier to breathe when I woke up to brand new rays of sunshine. I didn't even need my alarm that morning. Instead, it was the sunlight that caused my heart to beat faster. Because it meant that I was that much closer to seeing Brody again.
It's an awesome experience...looking forward to your day from the second you open up your eyes.
My father didn't speak to me at all that morning. Not like I gave a shit. I didn't even want to look him in the face. The whole kitchen was electrified with a sense of hostility, and I noticed that my mom took a few glances at the both of us. At him. Then at me. Then back to him again. She's usually racing around the house to get ready for work while trying to put some breakfast on the table. But she got an early start today. And she seemed to be watching much more closely than usual. I don't like being 'monitored'. I just ate as fast as I could, put my plate in the sink, and just tried to get out of the kitchen before she asked any more questions. If I can hold out for another day or two, she'll relax. And then things can get back to normal. Well...my version of normal, anyway.
I got my stuff and tried to race to the door, but my mom called after me, and she said, "Zack? I want you to come home. Right after school today. Alright?"
I asked her, "Am I grounded?" I was kind of blindsided by the hurt of it.
She paused for a second, and then said, "Just for today." I'm not sure that I got it. But she still seemed extremely concerned about the whole thing. This may take a bit longer to go away than I thought. "No more late night homework sessions. Alright?"
"Alright." Then she softly said, "Take the trash out with you." I walked back to he side of the kitchen, and she snuck in a kiss on my cheek and a quick hug. "I love you."
"I love you too, Mom." I said, but I could practically feel my father rolling his eyes at the sentiment. It's a strange feeling, to feel no real protection in your own mother's embrace.
"You've got lunch money?" She asked.
"Yeah. I'm fine." I gently pried myself out of her arms, and backed away. Taking the trash with me. "I've gotta run. Gotta get to Adam's...."
My mother was able to get out, "Be safe. Have a good...." But I was gone before she finished. Great. Now it looks like I'm going to have to avoid her for the next week. I hope she doesn't get mad at me for being...distant.
I was a little bit early ringing Adam's doorbell, but he was already showered, dressed, and chewing on a crispy strip of bacon from his breakfast plate as he opened the door. His mom offered me something to eat. "No thanks, ma'am." I answered, and Adam wiped his hands off so we could go upstairs and wait on Brody to come join us. He already had the video game paused. Looks like he was in a one-player, shoot 'em up, mood today. Heh...didn't matter though. I doubt that I could focus much on playing games anyway. Already, my feet were bouncing up and down on his bedroom floor in eager anticipation of seeing Brody's sparkling hazel eyes gazing back at me again. To have him stand just a half inch out of my reach, where I could safely admire him for all that he was. And just...share some sunlight at his side for a while.
What is that I feel? I feel....important. Is that not crazy? After being soooo hated for soooo long, I was practically ready to burst out into a fit of giggles from experiencing the opposite reaction for a change.
When I heard Adam's doorbell ring, I instantly jumped up to my feet! I was getting ready to run downstairs and open the door for Brody when Adam gave me a strange look. Basically reminding me that it's not my house. Hehehe! I was wound up a little tighter than I thought. But even though Adam seemed to be dragging his feet, in no hurry at all to rush down for a cheerful Brody greeting, I did all I could to display some sense of self control.
He's here! He's here! Oh God...hehehe...
I squirmed around a bit, made sure to tease my hair so that it laid right, and tried to find a casual 'pose' that wouldn't make me look so anxious.
I doubt it worked though. Just hearing Brody's voice as he was coming up the stairs....my heart began to bounce around in my ribcage like a racquetball!
I held my breath as he entered the room. I know that I blushed instantly at the very sight of him. I couldn't turn away. I couldn't break the eye contact, even thought it caused a weakness in my stomach that nearly made me faint with infatuation. "S'up, Zack?" He smiled. The smile...that magic smile is what did it. All the air rushed out out of my lungs, and I barely had enough left to mumble, "Hi, Brody..." back to him. My next short breath was consumed by a flurry of nervous giggles, and I fought to keep my feet still.
Brody sat next to me on Adam's bed as he unpaused the game and started playing again. He was talking to us, and we were responding to him the whole time...but Brody and I kept exchanging these long loving looks with one another. Every last one of them making me wiggle a ticklish infant in his presence. Adam had his back to us most of the time, but he'd occasionally look back every now and then, just for eye contact's sake. We had to be careful not to get caught. But I kinda liked making a game out of it. Even though I was trembling inside and out, there was no place on Earth that I would rather be. This is the kind of fear and aching that I could get used to.
At one point, Brody grinned at me, and he used his tongue to push the inside of his cheek out to make it look like he was sucking me off. It caught me by surprise, and I suddenly laughed out loud without warning.
Adam asked, "What? What did I say?"
My giggles became contagious as Brody snickered to himself, trying to hold it in.
"What???" Adam asked again. "What the hell are you two on? You guys are freaking me out."
Adam's mom knocked lightly on the door, and brought Brody and I two sodas from the fridge, and a 3rd for Adam. She said, "You boys want to take these for your lunch or something? I want to get rid of them."
"Sure! Thanks." Brody said.
Adam wrinkled up his forehead a bit. "Hey...how do you know that I didn't want all three sodas for myself?"
She playfully patted Adam on the head and replied, "I didn't. However, I do know that you don't need all three sodas." Before walking out, she said, "You'll thank me when the pimples begin again like last time, kiddo."
One thing that mom's never seem to realize...if you embarrass a guy in front of his guy friends...that is enough ammo to last for months, if not years! No matter how small the offense.
Adam looked over his shoulder at us and narrowed his eyes as he saw the wicked grins on our faces. "Not....ONE....word! You hear me?"
Brody threw up his hands, "Hehehe, I didn't say anything."
Adam snapped his glare over to me, and I told him, "Don't look at me! I didn't open my mouth..." Then I added, "...kiddo." Hehehe!
Brody couldn't hold his snickers back any longer, and started laughing. "It's ok, Adam. It's perfectly natural. You see, right now, your body is changing in amazing and fascinating ways...." Brody took a rather harsh punch in the leg for that one. I'm surprised he got off that easy. I didn't want to laugh TOO loud, or I was sure to get the same treatment. Wow...sometimes it feels soooo good to laugh like this. Even when it hurts.
"You guys suck! Assholes..." Adam grumbled. It's not like his feelings were hurt, he just knew that he was going to have to grin and bear the joke until it got old. And that could take a while. Hehehe, God forbid if Sam gets in on it!
Brody and I let Adam get back to his game for the next five to ten minutes before we had to leave for school. But this time...Brody put his backpack between us on the bed. And with a sly smirk and a wink, he secretly slipped his am around the back of it to gently take a hold of my hand. Just to hold it. Just to wrap his fingers around mine, and lightly rub his thumb back and forth across my knuckles.
Just to make contact. Just to touch me...and silently let me know he was there.
Despite suddenly being hard as a rock, as my arousal immediately shot through the roof...I found the whole gesture really sweet. Brody was just so...special to me. I never knew that it could be like this. Never. So I held his hand. He held mine. And just outside of the sight of my best friend...we made an unspoken promise to make it last forever.
I think I could do worse.