My windpipe must have shrunken down to the size of one of those thin and tiny coffee stirrers in the mall when Dustin's mother looked me in the eyes. I could barely breathe at all, and my ability to swallow was even more hindered than my sudden restriction of air. Oh God. Oh my dear God!
I was terrified that my pupils would connect with her's for a brief second or two, and the whole sordid relationship between me and her underaged son would be revealed all at once. She'd see the giggles, and the passionate kisses, and the naked cuddling in front of the TV as we recovered from the shivering bliss of multiple orgasms. Sexual exploits that would send her into a fit of hysteria once she attached the lustful acts to the blond innocence of her precious little boy.
I'm starting to think that there's no way for me to make it out of this hospital without wearing a shiny set of handcuffs and a fresh collection of facial scars once she got her hands on her son's abuser.
Even the slightest of chance encounters brings me right back to thinking that I'm the scum of the Earth...and I'm constantly having to tell myself that I'm not. Still...should I stay here and say something? Or should I wait for a 14 year old boy to defend me in front of his own mother?
Dustin was right. Things are so much easier until 'other people' get involved.
"Oh..." She said, her face brightening up a bit. "...You're Dustin's friend from the mall, aren't you?" Jesus...I felt so sick from fear.
"I...yes. The mall. Ummm..." I looked over at Dustin, and he was quick to jump in.
"This is Eric, Mom! He's the one I told you about. He's, like, my best friend in that place!" It was cute when he said it, but I could feel the terror of being found out slowly crushing my heart and lungs from the inside.
His mother's voice raised up in pitch, almost as if she was talking to one of his high school playmates. "Oh, so you're the 'Eric' Dustin's been talking about, day and night, over the past few months. It's so great to finally meet you." This 'Karen' woman shook my hand with a smile, and I felt like I wanted to wet myself right then and there. I still couldn't look her in the eye, and focused my eyes on the handshake instead. She knows about me? What did he say? How much did Dustin tell her? How is HE being so calm about this?
Oh...right. He's not going to be hauled off to JAIL if a single second of this greeting goes belly up on us. That's how.
"Yeah. I mean, yes...that's me. I guess..." I said.
Can she feel the increased heat in my handshake? Are my palms starting to sweat yet?
"Dustin talks about you as if the sun rises and sets according to your order." She grinned. "Every word out of his mouth is 'Eric' this and 'Eric' that...I was starting to think you were too amazing to be true."
"Er, really? No way." I said nervously, seeing Dustin blush in bed.
"Oh yes. All the time. Day in and day out. I almost wrote you off as an imaginary friend." His mom laughed to herself, and it was such a lighthearted laugh. I could almost see where Dustin got his cheerful chuckles from growing up. Then she moved closer to the side of the bed and gently brushed the longer side of Dustin's blond locks out of his face as she leaned in to give him a loving kiss on his forehead. "How are you doing, sweetie?"
Dustin reacted the way any teenage boy would react when receiving a kiss from his mom in front of company...
"MOM..." He sucked his teeth and jerked away from her, but not in an angry way. Just enough to deliver the not-so-subtle message that this wasn't the time for her to be...ummm...parental. "...C'mon. Quit it. I'm fine."
"Let me see." She said.
Dustin lifted up his bandage and showed her the wound underneath. "See? It's fine. The doctor doesn't even think it's going to scar or anything."
"Well, if it does, I guess you'll just grow your hair out even longer on that side, won't you?"
She turned to me and said, "I keep telling him to cut both sides evenly. But he says, 'Mom, I like it this way!' I don't see any of the other boys wearing it like that."
"That's kind of the point, Mom."
"What am I supposed to do with him?" She smirked.
Already, Dustin was frustrated, and even looked over to make sure that I didn't completely betray him by taking her side. Something that I'd never do, honestly. I actually loved the one sided curtain of blond splendor that stayed so shiny and sweet on the right side of his face. It was an incredibly cute expression of who he was as a person. You could just tell that he chose that hairstyle all on his own. That he did it to make a statement, whether the rest of the world understood it or not. He stuck by it, and he wasn't about to make any apologies for being somewhat original.
"I think it looks alright..." I mumbled. I just wanted to give Dustin a secretive grin and a wink, but the moment he heard me defend him...it was almost like he lost all control of his ability to sit still.
"See? Eric gets it!" Honestly, I got scared for a moment that he was going to leap out of that bed and kiss me on the lips if I didn't shoot him a stern look to tell him to keep still.
His mother didn't persist too much, but managed to say, "Well...I still think he needs a haircut, but this big bruise on his skull is enough of a reason for him to keep his hair like it is for a few weeks longer, I suppose." Then she added, "I just think you should shorten it, Dusty. You're such a stunning young man. Let the girls get a good look at you once in a while."
"SO not interested..." Dustin said, and I decided to jump in before he went any further with that statement.
"Have you heard anything from the doctors? About him getting the chance to get out of here and maybe go home, I mean?"
"Well...it's really nothing more than a nasty bump on the head, Eric." Is it a bad thing that it makes me uncomfortable to have Dustin's mother know my name. "But they just want to make certain that there aren't any side effects that we should worry about. That's all. My husband and I just signed him in for another night or two for the sake of observation. Can't be too careful with these things, you know?"
"Yeah. Right..." I said. My throat was tightening up even more than before. My heart was beating out of control. I was soooo scared to say anything for fear that it would conflict with something that Dustin had told her about us before this very moment and everything would unravel until we were both caught. I don't know...I think I'd rather deal with the heartless fury of law enforcement than the wrath of a set of angry parents who were convinced that I had spent the past few months sexually molesting their son. How did I get myself into this position??? My brain has been brutally torn in half, and the two sides just aren't connecting anymore like they should. "Well, I hope he gets well soon." I measured every single word, trying not to put too much emotion into my concern for his well being. Hoping to open up a nonchalant way of escaping once again without her suspecting anything.
"That makes two of us. Besides, I'm sure he's done all he can to try to scamper his way out of here already. That's the only reason he's sitting still right now." She says. "My Dusty is an angel, sure. But he can be a real schemer when he wants to be, Eric. Believe me. You've got to keep an eye on this one."
It made me smile. "Yeah. He can be a rascal at times." I said, spontaneously.
"Always has been. Even when he was a baby. My husband and I had to be come full blown detectives when it came to the exploits of our baby boy. Dustin worked himself into a frenzy, trying to pull the wool over our eyes every chance he got since he was able to walk." She said. Dustin cringed in response, but she ruffled his hair affectionately in response. "He's a crafty one, but we always figure out what he's up to eventually. Always." Even though she had the sweetest smile on her face when she said it, I took that as the most sinister threat that had ever been spoken in my presence. One of epic proportions.
Fourteen! Shit...Dustin's only fourteen! He's not going to be able to out maneuver this full grown parent for very long before she figures out the truth! What was I thinking?
"Mom? Can you get me one of those ice cream 'sammiches' from the cafeteria? I have a sore throat." Dustin whined, playfully. Gosh...looking at that soft blond hair and gleaming blue eyes, it was almost like Dustin was growing younger by the second.
"You need to be asking your nurse for treats, young man. Not me." She answered. "You want to come home tomorrow, don't you?"
"I know but...I want one." Dustin whimpered. "Please?"
She shook her head. "You are such a manipulator." I saw her grin as Dustin pouted slightly.
He felt the wound on his head and softly moaned, "Owwwie..." I had to hold back a snicker of my own as he forced his poor mother into position.
"I swear..." She sighed, but before I knew it, she was digging around in her purse for some extra change. Then she gave him another kiss on the forehead and told him she'd be back in a minute.
Dustin said, "Thank you, Mommy..." In the most innocent voice possible, and it only caused her to giggle out loud...while simultaneously making me cringe.
"Don't you start with that." She directed her eyes over to me. "Don't you let him step foot out of this bed. Watch him. He's up to something." With that, she walked out of the room to get Dustin his icy treat after I rushed over to hold the door for her...but even though she had left the room, I was still shivering in fear!
In fact, I couldn't even exhale the breath I had been holding until I heard the sound of her footsteps getting further away from the hospital room. I felt dizzy and had to lean against the side of Dustin's bed just to regain balance.
Dustin, on the other hand, was bursting with energy!
"Omigod...hahaha, I did not expect her to come in here like that! That was freaky!"
"That was more than freaky, Dustin..." I said, getting even more light headed.
"Fuckin' A! You just met my mom, dude! That's so extra!"
"Dustin..." I always had to remember to measure my tone when it came to one of Dustin's joyful outbursts. As confident and flippant as he appeared on the surface, Dustin could be really tender-hearted sometimes. The wrong words, spoken with the wrong tone of voice, could shatter his sensitive feelings in a single heartbeat. Still, I attempted to bring his youthful exuberance down for a few swift moments so he could, perhaps, realize the gravity of the situation. "...I really shouldn't be here right now. In fact, I should probably get out of here before your mother gets back. Ok?"
Dustin's forehead wrinkled up. "Why? I thought we were having fun?"
"No, YOU were having fun." I told him. "I was standing here trying not to have a friggin' heart attack!"
"Hehehe, what are you talking about? She doesn't know anything. She's more concerned with the length of my hair than anything else. Chill out."
"Dustin...I just...look, I'm going to go. Alright? I mean it." I told him, and I saw his shoulders slump down a bit.
"Awwww...m'kay..." He sulked. "Will you come see me tomorrow?"
"Why? Do you want me to meet your high school principal, next?" I said, rolling my eyes.
"I didn't know my mom was coming up here like this! Hehehe, don't be mean!" He was bouncing around on his cute little butt and getting antsy again. "I'm sorry, k? She surprised me too. I'll totally make it up to you later."
"I look forward to it." I smiled. I gazed into his eyes for a moment, almost unable to pull away from their hypnotic brilliance. I doubt anyone could doctor or airbrush a photo online and have it even come close to matching the enchanting beauty of the boy sitting in front of me. Even with a lump on his head. "I had to have Jack work my shift this morning so I'm sure I've got to cover his tomorrow. But, when you get home, drop me a line to let me know you're alright. Ok?"
"Ok." He said, followed quickly by, "I love you, Eric."
"Come on! Say it. I won't be able to sleep if you don't say it."
"Then I'll just have to have a nurse come in here to sedate you, won't I?" I answered.
"Won't take my mom long to come back with that ice cream sandwich, you know?" He winked. "Come on. You can whisper it if you want. Hehehe!"
"I love you. Now shut up already and lay back in bed." I grinned.
"That was lame. So lame." He smirked. "That's it. I can't sleep now. That was just too shitty to even register as a means of expression. You fail."
"You're a pain in the ass, you know that?"
"If I can't sleep, then that means me and mom are just going to have to stay up alllllll night talking. Talking, talking, talking. Especially about that nice young 'Eric' fellow that she met for the first time. Hehehe, she's gonna ask sooooooo many questions..."
Before he could go any further, I quickly leaned in and gave Dustin a quick, yet slightly lingering, kiss on the lips. "I love you. Alright? I mean it. That's all you're getting for now."
The look on his face was priceless. The surprise of it was so bright and full of wonder that you would have thought I brought him a newborn puppy in a box. He turned bright red and had to get his breathing under control before his mother's footsteps could be heard coming back towards the room and he forced himself to snuggle back into his sheets. That boy's overwhelming sucker punch of pure love was so contagious that I began to blush myself. A blush that I couldn't fully get rid of in time to keep his mother from seeing it when she walked back into the room.
She gave Dustin the snack she promised, but could tell by the devious smile on his face and the glowing blush on mine that she had just missed something here. "Uh oh. What are you two up to?"
"Nothing..." Dustin and I said simultaneously. It was merely by accident, but it caused us both to start snickering out of control.
"For crying out loud..." She said. "I already had one teenage deviate to deal with, now I feel like I might be outnumbered."
Dustin and I exchanged a playful look, and he stuck his tongue out at me as his mom chuckled at how easily we got along. What can I say? Dustin is a kid who's always trying to rush his way into adulthood, and I'm an adult who's always been a big kid at heart. Somehow, we always seemed to meet each other halfway. If Smitty from the coffee shop in the mall could see it, I'm sure Dustin's mom could too.
Then again, that's only because she doesn't realize how deep our connection goes. I'd kind of like to keep it that way.
"It was nice meeting you, Mrs. Hunter. I really do have to get going. I just wanted to make sure Dustin was ok."
"Nice meeting you too, Eric. Let me walk out with you..." She said, and...as I waved goodbye to Dustin, I started to immediately put my defenses up again once we were both out in the hallway and the door to Dustin's room closed behind us. I can't say that there was anything visually intimidating about his mom at all...but she had a very penetrating stare about her. Something about the way she looked me directly in the eye without flinching spoke volumes. Her eyes basically told you, 'I dare you to lie to me'. Still...I kept my composure and she maintained a polite and friendly tone of voice. "I just wanted to thank you for bringing him here to the hospital and checking him in the way you did. The nurses told us that your actions made a huge difference in all of this."
"Oh." I said, trying to conjure up enough breath to answer without feeling faint. "Well, I'd never want to see him hurt. Never."
She nodded. "Me either." She peered even deeper into my eyes for a brief moment, and I forced my hands into my pockets to keep them from fidgeting. "I was told that he...hit his head on a sink?"
"In your bathroom?" She asked. "You live around here? An apartment building?"
"Yes. I have...well, it's a small apartment. Nothing fancy." I swallowed hard and started slowly walking forward, hoping that she wouldn't follow me and I could back out of this conversation without much more of an exchange between us.
But she began to walk with me anyway.
"It's just that Dustin bolted out of the house so fast, I wasn't quite sure of where he was headed off to. He usually tells me where he's going and when he plans to be back. This time, he shouted out something about getting lunch and then he dashed out the door before I could get any more details. That's not like him at all." She said.
Trying hard not to break out in a suspicious sweat, I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Teenagers. Am I right?" I attempted to laugh it off, and she smiled...sort of. But I don't think she was fully buying it.
"They can be tricky." She replied.
Then...the awkward silence.
It might have only been a few seconds, but I soon couldn't STAND it anymore! "I'm sorry, but I really have to take off. I've got...so much stuff to do. So..."
"I understand. Go on. Go ahead. I guess I just wanted to thank you for looking out for my baby boy in there. It means so much. Maybe you'd like to come over for dinner sometime. My husband can meet you, Dustin can show off some of his toys...we can make a night out of it."
Little did she know that I had NO plans of ever meeting her husband, and that I had already been in their house, in Dustin's bedroom, and I'd seen all the 'toys' that I needed to see in there. Believe me.
But...being a perverted gentleman, I said, "Sure. That sounds great. We'll make plans or something some time soon." I'm saying this while backing away from her down the hospital hall and trying to get as far away from this conversation as humanly possible. Finally, she slows down, choosing not to stray too far from Dustin's room. A mother lioness, guarding her cub. Thank God for boundaries. "I'll talk to you soon. Give Dustin my best wishes." And then I nearly had to fight the urge to RUN out of that place at full speed, just to make sure she wasn't chasing me with her claws out! A mother lioness, indeed!
I couldn't make it to my car fast enough. I was nearly hyperventilating over what had just happened, and I was shaking so badly that I dropped my car keys in the parking lot...twice.
And yet, even with my body suffering through the chaotic turmoil of fear and confusion...the option of walking away from this just didn't seem like much of an option at all. I was in love with him. So deeply in love that it hurt to even consider how difficult it would be for something like this to actually work out. Or to even stay hidden for the next three and a half years until our relationship became somewhat 'acceptable' by the general public. It bothered me so much to think that something as pure and as blissful as Dustin and I being together and laughing until we had tears in our eyes, making love until our bodies were humming with sexual satisfaction, or simply holding one another in a warm embrace until we fell asleep in each other's arms...had somehow been reduced to the finale of an old Frankenstein movie. With us standing at the top of a windmill among an army of nameless villagers with torches and pitchforks, crying out for blood while we scream down on them with teary eyes...
"LEAVE US ALONE!!!"
I parked my car that night and took the elevator up to my apartment, kicking my shoes off and plopping down on the couch. Turning on the TV for no other reason than I didn't want to deal with the silence around me.
My mind drifted from one awful scenario to another...but then my phone buzzed beside me. I picked it up, and grinned from ear to ear when I saw that the message was from Dustin. He said, "My mom said I could have my phone back! Hehehe! I LOVE you, k? So much! I nearly fell out of this bed when you kissed me tonight! That was awesome! Can't wait to get home! See ya soon! Bye! MWAH!!!"
Everything Dustin says is just drenched in sweetness and a level of 'cute' that will throw you into a fit of hysterics if you're not careful.
I didn't know if his mom was sitting right there next to his hospital bed or what, so I played it safe and just sent a little 'kiss' emoji for now. Just to let him know that I was thinking about him, and that I was glad he was safe.
He may drive me crazy from time to time, but his love is the only kind of love that would make an adventure like this worth it. I just want to enjoy this for as long as I can.