Rangel (tooker) wrote,
Rangel
tooker

UC Chapters 27-31

They ask me questions…dozens of questions. They want to know where Billy is, why he shot Steve, has he killed before…blah blah blah. So many questions and I’m so tired, I just want to sleep, or cry some more. I stare at the cop whose questioning me now; I realize he’d be attractive if he smiled more, smiled at all actually. He reminds me of a robot, a machine, someone fashioned solely for serving one purpose in life.

“You were with Mr. Martin at the time of the murder?” Another question…incredibly similar to the long string of others he’s asked me.

I sigh and cast my eyes onto the surface of the table that sits between us, it’s a gray impersonal color, boring. I glide my palm against its smooth surface, there’s no purpose to the action, its just a pointless action, pointless motion…pointless movement. I think about the bleakness of the room, wondering if kept in the room long enough with the cop if I might go insane…I figure probably not, that might just be something I’ve already achieved…insanity that is. “He didn’t murder anyone.”

No…he hadn’t, not in my mind at least.

An impatient sigh escapes the cop’s lips and he runs his fingers through his terribly mundane brown hair, an action I will note later as a nervous habit. “We have a witness, we have a gun with his fingerprints on it, we have a dead body…I think we’ve pretty much established the fact that he in fact did kill somebody.” He pauses and looks at me, trying to pull from my gaze something…some hidden secret that might clue him into Billy’s location. “Where is he Joel?”

My eyes flicker past him to the wall, the gray blank wall that stares back emotionless, but I’m not really looking at the wall, I’m looking at my life. Flashes of images play over the surface of the wall; whether real or imagined they pull me into their grasp hypnotizing me. Pointless moments replay in front of me, moments with Billy, with Benji…and some moments when I was utterly alone. There’s no order to the images, everything is haphazardly thrown in front of me and I realize that within the random images my mind is sending me some message, a message I fail to decipher.

“Joel, if you tell me now you’ll save us some time and you can save your conscious a lot of grief.” My eyes trace back to him, the images fading back into the background of my mind.

I want to scream, yell at him with messy tears flooding from my eyes, but all I can do is cast my gaze to my lap and mumble a pathetic, “I want to go home…”

“I’m sorry.” But there’s no sympathy in his voice, not even the slightest hint of it. I’m aware he’s probably used to this kind of reaction, it probably doesn’t faze him in the slightest, and perhaps, under different conditions I might ask him how he managed to become so indifferent, so immune to emotions and feelings. I just sit there though, pushing back thoughts that attempt to break through the protective wall I’ve built around my mind. I’m aware that within me something has died, some tiny piece of me, something that had been born when I met Billy…it had died with his leaving, with my pushing him away.

“Just tell me what happened that night and tell me where Billy is, then you can go.” His tone softens as he says those words, as though he thinks by adding a touch of humanity to his voice I might cave. I don’t cave, in fact I say nothing and instead I wrap my arms around my chest attempting to warm the hollowness of my being. The action of course is one without results, there’s no cure for the intangible coldness that only I can feel deep within me…none save for Billy’s touch.

“Joel…” Frustration enters his tone with my failure to reply, “just tell me about that night…tell me everything.”

“I…I have to go…” The words rush from my mouth as I realize I cant tell him ‘everything’, I cant even tell him one tenth of it...everything is too fresh in my mind too painful to remember with anymore detail than I already do.

He sighs, a somewhat defeated sigh, “I suppose this is enough questioning for today.” He nods then as if to convince himself of that single statement and then he stands up pushing in his chair with a slow steady hand. “Come on.” I watch him for a moment as he walks toward the door, as if simply watching him might give me some clue as to the person behind his aloof front but I see nothing but a man, a man who’s tired from the same routine everyday a man sucked of all feeling, someone I would pity at any other time in my life, someone like me…

“Your brothers here to pick you up.” He says while pushing the door open and leading me out into the hallway. There’s nothing amazing about the way he says the word ‘brother’, however at the simple mention of Benji my heart seems to do somersaults in my chest.

“How did he…”

The cop’s automatic response cuts my question off midway, “We called the school, we couldn’t get in contact with your mother so we figured your brother might have some insight on where she was. We would have asked you, however you were being questioned at the time and we didn’t want any interferences.” He pauses and gives me a sideways glance, “Where is your mother?”

It’s a question I can honestly say I’m not prepared for, just the word ‘ mother’ serves to upset the whole balance of my world making it tilt even more off center than it did after Billy’s leaving. “She…” I attempt to reply but I find it impossible to fit my mouth around the right words.

“She…?” The cop pauses in the center of the hallway turning to face me, his expressionless brown eyes seem to look into me attempting to pull from my own brown orbs whatever information he can. I wonder if he can see me for what I am, a person no longer capable of feeling the extremity of love, someone who pushed away the greatest thing in his life during a brief moment of insanity.

“She left us…” The words roll off my tongue stinging it’s moist tip as though they’re coated in a thick layer of acid.

“You boys live alone…how do you pay bills…how do you buy food?” There’s disbelief in his voice and confusion. He leans back against the boring wood paneled wall behind him getting comfortable as if preparing to hear the most entertaining story ever.

I shrug slightly, “she hasn’t been gone ‘that’ long, besides she did leave us with some money, and when we run out we plan on taking from our college funds so its not as though we’re totally penniless.” Of course there is a slight pang in my side as I reveal the idea to take money from our college funds. Money is already getting scarce and I know its only a matter of a few weeks before we have to dig into that money, of course when Benji suggested the idea it had sounded so easy, so right, but now while standing with the officer in the silent hall I realize my college education is in that money…my future.

“It’s a waste don’t you think…to throw away something as valuable as education?” He looks at me with skeptical eyes his arms crossing over his chest in an almost dubious manner.

“I…I don’t know.” I mutter back pathetically aware suddenly that I really don’t know…I don’t have a fucking clue what to think about anything anymore.

He nods as though my reply is satisfactory and he pushes himself away from the wall, “You seem like a good kid Joel, I don’t know why you got yourself involved with someone like that Martin kid…” He shakes his head as if to say; ’what a shame’ and then he turns and leads me down the rest of the hallway.

Benji immediately rises from a puke green metal chair when he sees me exit the hallway, beside him sits Tony who offers me a confused glance while taking his movement from out of the chair much slower. “Billy killed someone?” Benji asks immediately as he approaches me. I wonder why it never occurred to me to think about what Benji’s reaction might be to the news of Billy’s supposed ‘murder’.

I shake my head slowly, “No…no, it wasn’t like that…” I mutter wanting nothing more for all the endless questions to cease and for a huge hole to form in the ground to devour me.

“Where did he go?” Tony asks cautiously, using the perfect tone so as not to appear as though he’s prodding me for information.

“I don’t…” I shake my head slowly and avert my gaze to Benji, “ I don’t know…” The words are almost some kind of plea, a request for an answer to a question I cannot even answer. “Please…can we just go home?”

Benji nods automatically in response to my question, “come on.” He says softly while casting a worried gaze to Tony. I pretend not to notice the subtle exchange of concern that passes over their faces; instead I listlessly follow them out of the building to the familiar safety of Benji’s car.

I automatically take refuge in the back seat praying that the gap between the front seats and the back might provide some sort of a shield to protect me from further questions from either of them. Benji of course slides into the front seat and Tony takes the passenger seat, I catch Benji’s eyes in the rear view mirror as he slips into his seat, they dart from Tony to me, worry flooding their brown exterior.

So much worry. Worry for me, for Tony, for house bills that have to be paid, for school work that has to be done…I’m suddenly aware of just how hard Benji does have it, I’m tempted to say something but my nerve dissipates as he shifts his gaze to Tony. “I’m going to go ahead and drop you at your house…I’ll pick you up later tonight so you can get your car.”

Tony nods slowly and offers Benji a weak smile, “Alright.” He leans in slowly and grazes his lips with Benji’s. Tears streak Benji’s face as he pulls away from the soft kiss, “Eat something today okay?” He chokes back sobs as he speaks, and then he’s sliding his fingers along Tony’s jaw staring at him through hazy eyes.

Tony nods, “I’ll try…” His hand reaches up and lands on top of Benji’s. I try not to notice the painful difference between their wrists, the way Tony’s is nothing more then skin stretched too tight around bone.

“Okay” Benji sniffles slightly and pulls his hand away placing it on the steering wheel. I catch him glancing at me again in the rearview mirror but I say nothing, I lean my head against the window trying not to wonder where Billy is, begging myself to stop caring…knowing very well I’m incapable of anything but loving him.

I press my face against the window letting it’s icy surface numb my cheek, my eyes wandering to the scenery outside. There’s children running across a lawn their faces lit with grins as they tackle each other in piles of orange and yellow leaves, I want to dissolve into their smiles, fade into their vulnerable happiness. I want to become an invisible spectator one immune to all that corrupts and breaks the hearts of so many. I want to cease existing….fade away.

“Will he be alright?” I don’t look up, I let my eyes flutter closed letting Benji and Tony’s voices meld into the background until they’re simply sounds, words with no meaning. I let my mind wander to that place, that place where all my thoughts of Billy lay lined in neat imaginary little rows. As my thoughts stray towards him I see an image of him in my mind but as my fingers slide towards him there’s nothing but a tangible wrenching in my stomach one that twists and yanks at me as his image dissolves and my eyes blink open again. We’re at Tony’s house, my brain processes this fact immediately as my eyes gaze out the window at a large brick house. The house is perfect of course, one of those houses you see on the front of magazines or in movies. The lawn is that obnoxious shade of green, the kind of green that’s so unrealistically perfect you can barely believe it is in fact real. His mail box is even somewhat gaudy, big and brick it stands more as a sign of the status of the occupants of the house rather than anything else. I can almost imagine what the inside of the house must look like, I decide I wouldn’t be surprised if everything was covered in plastic to prevent the undoubtedly expensive furniture from getting dirty. For a moment I let my mind toy with the idea of what it must be like to live in such a nice house, I immediately let the thought drop away aware that it will only provoke jealousy within me.

“You want to come inside?” Tony asks Benji as he undoes his seat belt and steps out of the car. I look at Tony and then at the house trying to imagine him inside it, trying to imagine what the world of Tony Lovato looks like through his eyes. I imagine it must not be as perfect as the faultless landscape of his front lawn suggests it is, not when I’m well aware of his eating disorder. He fidgets slightly and leans against the open door blinking to shield his eyes from the sun.

Benji looks back at me, as if to get my okay before he gives his response. “It’s okay.” I say softly knowing that it really isn’t ‘okay’, since all I really want to do is go up and curl into a ball and sleep the rest of my life away.

“Yeah…but only for a minute.” Benji says as he turns back to Tony. I notice the immediate joy that crosses Tony’s face as he hears Benji’s reply and I’m somewhat proud of myself for being the unselfish brother for once. Benji looks back at me again, “You have to come in too though.” I know I cant oppose him, not because I think he would get mad, but because suddenly I don’t want Tony to lose the pleased grin that’s slid onto his face. I nod instead and slide out of the backseat tugging my arms closer against me preparing to combat the cold of the outside. No one else appears cold save for me, and of course that only makes me wonder more if everything is in my mind…if I really am losing my mind.

I trail a few feet behind them as we walk up the long twisting driveway. I notice while walking that the driveway has no cracks in it, it’s all smooth pavement, smooth and perfect like everything else on the Lovato property. I want to throw a bomb at the house, at the perfect hedges, at the fucking perfect lawn. I want to watch the false illusion of a perfect life crumble and be eaten away by smoke and ash…destroyed just like the happiness of my life with Billy had been destroyed.

“It’s so big.” Benji’s awed voice draws my gaze back to their backs and off the flawless driveway. Months before had he said such a thing I would have laughed and reported to him that the comment could be taken in a perverted sense but no laughter falls onto my lips now not even the slightest hint of a smile.

“I guess.” Tony shrugs and starts up the massive steps that lead to the house’s elaborate wood door. There’s actually only three steps but they’re thick and brick and obviously once again serve only to tell passerby’s that the people living in the house are not bad off at all. Tony pauses when he reaches the door his hand digging into his pocket to retrieve his keys. Benji climbs the stairs right behind him and ends up inches from him watching him closely. I decide to wait at the bottom of the stairs watching them as someone might watch actors on a stage or in a movie, taking in all their actions with detailed care. There’s something beautiful about the way the sunlight falls on Tony’s face it almost surreal. I’m slightly aware Benji must notice it too because his eyes are all but enamored to Tony like an adoring fan awed to silence by the beauty of their idol. “I cant find my keys.” Tony finally sighs, pulling his hand from his pocket and meeting Benji’s gaze. Benji automatically falls out of his quiet reverence letting his face relax into a more normal expression.

“Did you leave them at my house?”

Tony sucks his lip ring into his mouth and appears thoughtful for a moment, “Probably, I think I left them on your night table actually.” He pauses a moment as if in thought again, “Wait… I think my mom hides a key out here for when shit like this happens.” His eyes scan the area around him and then he leans past Benji stretching to reach above him the ledge above the door. Both mine and Benji’s eyes are immediately drawn to Tony’s chest as his shirt moves up to reveal tattooed skin pulled tight around ribs. Benji looks away after a moment something close to shame appearing in his eyes. I however don’t pull away, I slide my eyes over the skin wondering why someone would make themselves so painfully skinny but not bothering to comment on it. Tony eventually, after sliding his hand around an awful lot on the ledge pulls his hand back and lets his shirt fall down again as he regains his normal stance in front of Benji. “Found it!” He grins as though finding the key is some enormous accomplishment.

Benji offers him a smile, “I knew you would baby.” The words force Tony’s grin even larger and he leans in letting his fingers fall to Benji’s chin pulling him closer for a kiss. Benji of course doesn’t oppose, why should he? He lets his lips move to Tony’s his tongue sliding into Tony’s mouth immediately like a serpent sliding into some moist wet pit. The contact between them brings a gentle ache to my heart, a gentle ache that only makes the more unbearable ache caused by Billy’s leaving to be amplified. Of course the only reason I feel anything at all is because it reminds me of Billy again, reminds me of how he tasted, how gentle and fragile he was despite his cold outside front. I look away trying to drown out the sound of their lips meeting by concentrating on the wind as it sweeps through the trees. Theres something soft and alluring about the wind, I envy it suddenly for it’s ability to travel so effortlessly all over the world, for its inability to be bothered by any obstacles. I suddenly find myself wishing I were the wind, but that of course is nothing new, the wishing I was something else that is.

“Joel…” A hand touches my shoulder, I turn startled out of my silent thoughts. It’s Benji’s hand of course, he looks at me worry in his brows, “are you coming?” I realize the door is open now and Tony is standing in the doorway watching us, waiting for us to join him. I wonder how long I had been standing there, how long I had let my thoughts stray forgetting the moment and the world around me. It couldn’t have been too long I suppose., but who was I to judge even time anymore.

“Oh…yeah.” I mumble softly climbing up the large brick stairs to enter the house. Benji goes in front of me of course and slides his arm around Tony’s waist so gently one would think he was touching an infant. They walk in front of me through the doorway, I of course falter a moment wondering if going inside Tony Lovato’s house will change anything in my life, knowing it wont. As I do walk into the house I’m not surprised to notice the door opens into a large foyer with two antique grandfather clocks on either side of the door. The floor of course is wood, dark rich wood waxed to a perfect shine. The foyer leads into a hallway that forks off to various rooms, all of the rooms are of course of prodigious size with big windows letting in unearthly amounts of bright sunlight. He leads us upstairs stopping in front of a door he turns to us. “My rooms a mess.” He says almost apologetically while sliding his hand onto the handle. Benji laughs and kisses him playfully, “Baby it cant be worse than mine.”

Tony grins, “yeah you’re probably right.” He swings the door open then, but instead of being shocked at the messiness of the room it is the occupant in the room that has my attention, not because he’s amazingly gorgeous, which of course he is, but just the presence of anyone else in the house is unexpected to me.

“Matt, when did you get here?” Tony asks casually obviously seeing nothing strange about the other male being in his room.

“A few hours ago, my mom and dad are fighting again so they dropped me off here. You know how they are, they think hearing them scream at each other is going to fuck me up.” Matt replies not bothering to move from his lazy position on Tony’s bed. He does however give me and Benji a quick glance before looking back at Tony, “Friends of yours?”

Tony smirks slightly, “Actually…this is Benji…” He lets his arm find its way around Benji’s waist again, “you know the guy I was telling you about?”

Matt nods knowingly, “The one with the amazing smile and the awesome piercings…the one you wouldn’t stop going on about last time I visited…” He laughs slightly and pushes himself up sliding off the bed to come toward us, “Yeah, I think it would be impossible for me to not know who he is.”

“This is Matt, he’s my cousin.” Tony informs us as Matt approaches us. I let my eyes linger on Matt, trying to look through him and see any faults he might have, of course it’s a useless attempt. What I do see however is another guy, just another person that I probably don’t want to take the time to get to know.

“Yeah I’m Matt, the cute Lovato.” A smile plays at the ends of his lips as he introduces himself a smile almost identical to Tony’s, I decide the irresistible smile must be a Lovato thing, inherited through the genes or something.

Benji leans into Tony slightly and smiles at him, “Yeah, umm as you already know I’m Benji and that’s my twin brother Joel.” He glances at me as he says my name as if to check my reaction towards Matt.

I just give Matt a wry smile and mumble, “Yeah…I’m Joel.”

He nods and looks at Tony again his grin widening upon making eye contact with his cousin. “You have hot friends.” He whispers loudly, intentionally making it so we can all hear him.

Tony and Benji laugh I however am finding the situation too overwhelming, the joking the laughing, the fucking acting normal…its too much and I cant handle it. I look at Tony and quickly ask him where the bathroom is, he detaches himself from Benji momentarily and points down the hallway giving me directions so I can find my way to it without a guide. I thank him quickly and detach myself from their group moving down the hallway past closed doors towards the bathroom where maybe I can lose myself in the comfort of my own tears.

The bathroom of course is huge, probably the size of my entire bedroom but of course upon entering it my mind is on everything but the size. I shut the door behind me with a gentle click and stand before a huge mirror; the mirror covers a good portion of the wall and reflects every one of my flaws in its smooth surface. I want to cry still, but my eyes remain dry and the only evidence if my hurt is a dull ache pounding in the back of my mind. I notice once again the absurdity of my hairstyle and how only hours ago Billy was standing before me telling me he liked it.

Billy. I scream at myself inwardly for thinking about him again and I promptly push him from my mind, letting numbness overwhelm me. Despite everything that I’m suddenly not feeling I intentionally push my hand through my hair disrupting my ‘fashion’ Mohawk and separating my hair into a mess of hard waxy chunks. There’s something satisfying about the small action, as if simply by messing up my hair I have killed some fake part of me, some piece of me that was connected to ‘him’. I let my gaze drift from my own reflection to the sink, its porcelain of course and is set in a glossy marble countertop. I slide my hand over a golden knob and turn on the warm water it rushes out of the silver faucet in a soft roar and my gaze follows it as it travels down the drain. It’s funny how sometimes you can look at things, just stare at them and notice every detail of them and yet you won’t remember any of it because your mind was some place all together different the whole while you were looking at it. This is one of those times I suppose. I stare at the water but all I can think about is how ugly everything has turned how everything has turned a murky gray color and the prettiest of things is faded when viewed by my now pessimistic eyes. I push my hands under the water and splash the warm water onto my face maybe the water might wake me from some horrible dream…of course it doesn’t.

I want to stay in the bathroom forever of course, simply hide behind its walls until forgotten. I wonder if you’re really living once forgotten, are you really alive if no one knows you exist? I suppose you are, but only in a physical sense.

“Joel…” Its Benji of course, he’s knocking on the door, I turn the water off and walk towards the door, with a simple twist of the knob the door is open and Benji is standing in front of me. “Are you okay, you’ve been gone kind of long.” Concern, worry, they both coat his tone and I find myself wondering if he’ll ever stop worrying about me…somehow I doubt he will.

“Yeah.” I force a smile, it’s pathetic really and as soon as it slides across my face I realize I’d have been better off not smiling at all.

Benji sighs, “No…you’re lying.” He slips past me into the bathroom pushing the door gently shut as he moves. “We need to talk Joel…” He pauses and lifts himself up onto the countertop and looks at me. I stare back blankly not knowing what to say, he extends his hand and pulls me towards him positioning me up against the counter in between his parted knees. “I don’t know what went on with Billy, I don’t know who he killed and I'm not going to bother asking you about that because somehow I know you’d rather not talk about it. I do however need you to tell me you’re going to be okay, and if you can’t do that then I need you to tell me what will make you okay because I hate to see you hurting…I hate it Joel.” He runs his finger across my jaw and smiles gently, a sad smile accompanied by a slow stream of tears. Any other time I would have fallen into his embrace, and let his soft calming hold on me evaporate all my troubles but it’s different this time…he cant fix the pain the hurt not when I’ve pushed it so far away denying it the pleasure of consuming me.

“I’ll be okay.” I try to force conviction into the words but they fall from my lips as meaningless sounds…just words, words to take up space and fill the silence.

“Are you sure?” He asks it because he’s well aware I’m full of shit.

“Yeah.” I murmur my reply as I slowly pull away from him, trying not to notice the disappointment and hurt that crosses over his face as I attempt to distance myself from him. “Hey uh…Tony’s probably going insane without you...” I start towards the door, “come on, we should probably go back to him now.” Of course I don’t want to see Tony or his cousin Matt or anyone else for that matter but I have to get out of that bathroom. I have to get away from the familiarity of Benji’s touch before I let myself seek comfort in it.

“Oh…yeah.” He slides off of the counter and walks towards the door however he stops inches from it in front of me. “Hey Joel…” He lifts his hand as if to touch me but then he slowly lets it drop back to his side. A shaky breath escapes his lips and he wraps his arms around himself his gaze locked on me, “Nothing’s changed, you know? I’m still your brother; I still love you, so uh…when you’re ready to talk to me…” He lifts his hand again but this time he does touch me, his hand falls on my cheek and he gently strokes it as his gaze continues to bore into mine. “I’ll be here…I’ll always be here.” His volume lowers as he says the last words and before I realize what’s happening he’s leaning in pressing his lips to mine. The kiss comes as a shock to me, but as the shock subsides something else takes its place, and the something is hurt, familiar hurt. I deepen the kiss by pushing my tongue between his parted lips I ravish his mouth trying to fill the subdued pain with something else, something physical. I lose myself in his mouth, in the scent of him being so close, in the feel of him beneath my fingertips; I forget everything for one moment. When he pulls away I don’t cling to him or try to force his mouth back towards mine, that’s not how it works, the kiss was intended for comfort and nothing else so I expect nothing more from him at the moment.

“Let’s go…” He says in a breathy whisper while sliding his hand over my own and pulling me towards the door.

A grin spreads across Tony’s face as we enter the room, and almost immediately he is off his bed and rushing toward Benji and me. I move past them and sit down on the bed and pretend to be interested in the game his cousin Matt is playing on the PS2. “You want to play?” He asks while glancing at me. I politely tell him no and I continue to stare at the screen as though it’s the most entertaining thing in the world when of course it’s not. After a few minutes Benji and Tony move over to the bed, Tony’s arm is of course slid all the way around Benji’s waist a look of total contentment paste across his face. I watch them out of the corner of my eyes, Benji moves away from Tony and lays out next to me on his stomach and in seconds Tony is draped next to him his finger’s idly playing with Benji’s hair as he stares at the T.V screen. Matt seems totally oblivious to all of us, his eyes never leave the screen. “Where’s Jere?” Tony asks Matt while sliding his other hand up Benji’s shirt and grazing his fingertips over his skin.

Matt shrugs, “He’s mad at me again…” I expect him to continue but he lets the subject drop and resumes frantically pushing buttons on the controller. I wonder briefly who Jere is and why he might be mad at the Matt guy but my thoughts are swiftly ruined by the hushed laughter of Benji. I turn to find Tony leaning over his back his lips sliding down Benji’s spine leaving soft feathery kisses. It discomforts me slightly to see them so close especially when I have no one to do the same with, but at the same time I cant be mad not at either of them for who am I to judge who should be happy?

“He says he’s breaking up with me again.” Matt’s voice, the break in his silence is unexpected and I automatically switch my gaze back to him.

“Oh…” Tony says slowly while moving off Benji and allowing him to roll over onto his back. Within seconds Tony is on top of Benji, straddling his waist and leaning down exploring his neck with his mouth. I slide off the bed giving them more room to do whatever it is they intend to do, I sit down next to Matt aware that I don’t know him and that the action may seem odd to him. He says nothing though and I wonder if he even notices my new position next to him.

“So where’s your mom?” He says in such a way that it seems as though he could be talking to himself, however I know better.

“Work.” That’s the only reply Tony bothers to give and the way it falls from his lips makes it seem more like a prerecorded answer rather than anything possessing any real honesty.

There’s silence then, silence save for the sound of the game and the hushed voices of Benji and Tony. I pull my knees to my chest and let my eyes turn towards the window. I watch the long branches of a oak as they sway to the melodic voice of the wind while it sweeps through its boughs. It makes its branches scrape along the window like claws grabbing for some nameless object. I move from the floor and walk to the window as if to answer their reaching hands and voiceless calls. Everything around me fades as I stand in front of the window, the world itself becomes a shadow and I stare at the outside, at a world suddenly alien to me. I see Billy’s face everywhere, he’s the nameless pedestrian walking their dog, he’s the mailman sliding mail into the narrow slot of the oversized brick box. He’s everyone, everyone who walks down the street, everyone who drives past in their overpriced cars. I reach towards him, towards all the Billy’s that walk past the house, all the strangers who have suddenly taken on his appearance, however my hand instantly meets with the cold clear glass of the window and all sanity is restored to my mind. I pull my gaze away from the window and lean my back against its hard surface watching Tony and Benji as they innocently explore each other’s mouths. I want out of the room, out of the house but I’m aware there’s nowhere I can go, nowhere that could possibly shield me from my own mind.

I sink down to the floor pulling my arms tight around me staring blankly at everything around me. The world doesn’t stop for me, Benji and Tony continue in their make out session, Matt continues with his game. I watch Benji and Tony, watch how their lips fit perfectly together as though they had been made only for the function of being with each other. They’re beautiful, so beautiful, I pale in comparison to them, pale and I have to wonder if one day I might glow so dimly that I might just vanish suffocated by the brilliance of their own brightly glowing beauty.

“I’m starving.” Matt gets up and flings the controller to the floor and looks at Tony and Benji. Tony’s lips part with Benji’s and they both look at him.

“There’s stuff in the refridge…” Tony replies while moving off of Benji so he can sit up.

Benji pulls his shirt down and throws his legs over the edge of the bed and then while sucking in his lip ring he turns to Tony. “We should probably go.” He says but something about the way he says it makes me well aware he doesn’t really want to leave.

“Oh…” Disappointment crosses over Tony’s face and he runs a shaky hand through his blonde disheveled spikes, “ You know you could stay the night…my mom wont be home till tomorrow.” He explains quickly as though the information alone will hold Benji to the spot.

“I thought she was at work.” Matt interjects automatically his own expression that of masked suspicion.

“Well yeah…” Tony fidgets and pulls at the edge of his shirt he suddenly appears insanely uncomfortable and I realize that it must have to do with the conversation. Benji looks at Tony but instead of prodding him to continue he smiles gently and leans in planting a soft kiss on Tony’s cheek.

“If you really want me to stay…then I’ll stay.” With Benji’s words the topic of Tony’s mom is dropped and I can almost visibly see Tony’s relief clearly in his expression.

“Of course I want you to stay.” He grins and gets off the bed extending his hand to Benji, Benji takes his hand and lets Tony pull him from the bed as well and Tony turns to face Matt. “So…you going to go eat the stuff in the refridge?”

Matt shakes his head and leans against the door playing with the handle as he looks at Tony, “Nah…I think I’ll call Jere, beg him to go out somewhere with me.” He bites his lip then and suddenly I’m afraid he’s going to burst out crying…he just has ‘that’ look.

“Matt…” Tony’s expression turns to one of concern and he steps forward dropping his hand on Matt’s arm, “What happened, seriously, how pissed did you make him this time?”

Matt shakes Tony’s hand off and shrugs slightly, “I don’t know…I mean it didn’t seem like a big deal but he freaks out over the stupidest things.” I’m suddenly becoming interested in their conversation like someone tuning into a soap opera half way after its began. I want to Know who the Jere guy is, how exactly Matt’s upset him…

“Well what did you do?” Tony continues to prod, but Matt shakes his head and opens the door. “It’s not a big deal.” He turns to me and smiles politely, “It was nice meeting you Joel.” He says, and then he turns to Benji repeating the phrase however this time he inserts Benji’s name rather then mine. Benji smiles back, “Yeah it was cool meeting you too, you aren’t leaving are you?”

Matt shakes his head and slips out into the hall, “nah I’ll be around the house.” He then turns to face Tony again, “Hey if Jere calls you…tell him I’m sorry…I mean…he wont talk to me, so I figure he might call your cell or something.” Matt shrugs hopelessly and walks down the hallways eventually disappearing around a turn and then its just me Tony and Benji again.

Tony turns back to us when Matt is gone and gives Benji a knowing grin, “So…sleeping arrangements…”

“Sleep in my room?” Tony asks Benji softly while giving him a meaningful stare. I wonder why he bothers asking, doesn’t he know that Benji is incapable of denying him of anything? I watch Benji for his reply, he smiles of course and slides his index finger up Tony’s arm gently tracing one of his tattoos.

“Did you really think you had to ask?” He asks while stepping forward pushing Tony against the wall. I wonder if I’ve suddenly become invisible, do they not realize I’m still standing inches from them in the room? I guess not, or maybe they do and they just don’t care. I sigh and slip behind them toward the door pretending I don’t notice how Benji’s hand is already slipping to Tony’s belt.

“Hey uh…Benj…can I borrow the car?” I lean against the door jam hating that I am interrupting them, but what else am I supposed to do, just stand there and watch?

Benji turns but doesn’t let go of the hold he has on Tony, “Uh yeah…just get back soon or call me so I don’t have to worry about where you are.” Even as he speaks Tony is already slipping his hand down Benji’s pocket, when he pulls his hand out he has Benji’s car keys in them.

“Here Joel.” He slips his arm past Benji’s side and opens his palm to me offering me the keys. I eye them for a moment almost as though I’m seeing them for the first time. He has about half a dozen key chains dangling from the keys, one of them in particular holds my gaze. It’s a small guitar pick, black with scratched out white out on it, I try to remember when he got it but I cant. It shouldn’t bug me but it does. I know everything about Benji I know everything he owns, I know every little secret he has, but this one guitar pick, this tiny little object is totally new to me and I can’t help but be mad at my inability to decipher its meaning to him.

“Hey…you okay?” Benji turns all the way around and steps away from Tony waving his hand in front of my eyes. I automatically snap out of my gaze and give him a shaky nod.

“Oh yeah…sure.” I grab the keys from Tony whose own gaze practically mimics Benji’s perfectly. “I just…I was thinking about stuff.” I turn around and walk into the hallway anxious to get out of the house so I can be alone.

“Hey Joel!” Benji of course, I should have known it wouldn’t be that easy to get away. I turn and look at him my fingers all the while are moving over the guitar pick, feeling it’s texture, it’s shape hoping it might give me some clue as to when he got it, why he got it.

“Yeah?”

“You sure you feel well enough to drive?” I know what he’s trying to say, he wants me to know he still cares, he wants me to know he’d drive me anywhere if I asked he loves me just that much. But there’s Tony and he’s so beautiful and he’s got his arms snaked around Benji’s waist and it’s perfect and I know I cant fuck it up.

“Yeah…I’ll be fine.” I give him a weak smile and I walk away. I walk down the long hallway and down the stairway, I walk past beautiful rooms, rooms from magazines. I walk out of the Tony Paradise and to the car.

The car is familiar, I’m more than happy to see it again because it hasn’t changed, Billy’s gone, Benji is in love, I’m broken, but the car….the car is just as it was before and I suddenly love it for it’s continuity. I slide into the drivers seat, I cant remember how long it’s been since I last drove, too long probably, maybe I’ll crash. Bitter laughter rises in my throat and I release it letting it butcher the crystal silence. A car crash, that’s wishful thinking with my luck a fucking vampire will bite me on the way home and I’ll live forever…now wouldn’t that be ironic? I start the car, my fingers find the heat and I put it up knowing it wont help to do anything about the cold. I turn on the radio hoping something amazing will come on, some song with answers rooted in it’s lyrics but everything is about trivial things and I find myself turning the radio off in seconds. So it’s me and the silence, the silence and my mind. My mind of course cannot be turned off like the radio and as I drive all I hear is the nagging voices in my head.

I drive on and on with no real destination, hoping maybe I’ll run out of gas on some deserted side road and get mugged or killed. It’s almost as though I’m asleep, I’m moving the wheel, I’m stopping at red lights going on green…but I don’t even know I’m doing it, not when my mind seems to be a million miles away.

Red Light. I stop again, I let my gaze drift out the window, maybe this time I wont notice when the light turns green. Maybe the car behind me would do me a favor, rear-end me, send me flying through the window, skin on pavement…I wonder how much I would bleed. I’m down town now, I must have been driving for a while to end up all the way down town. I gaze my eyes over decaying buildings all graffiti covered, I smile while taking in their appearance, “That’s where you belong Joel…” I mumble to myself. Living down town in a dilapidated building…suddenly it’s a beautiful dream. I imagine myself strewn out on the floor of one of the dirty buildings, I could make money whoring myself out, if I was lucky I could get a disease it would only ensure me a quicker death…it would only ensure that I got what I deserve.

Red turns green...I drive.

The world is different at night, the sun’s light fades and everything is bathed in artificial street lights. There’s something scary about driving at night, the darkness distorts shapes and innocent objects become threats. I drive past hotels, and cheap restaurants, there’s something familiar about the area I’m now in and of course it’s because I’ve been here before but my mind cant fathom when I was here or why. Another red light, I slide my gaze to a apartment complex and as I’m looking at it something, no, someone catches my eye. He’s leaning against a fence his head covered by a black beanie, he’s skinny and tall but I can barely make out his facial features in the dark. I stare at him through the tinted windows of my car, my jaw all the while falling farther and farther. It’s Billy…it has to be Billy. Once again the light turns green but I cant get myself to move and almost immediately the predictable honking of the car behind me greets my ears. You don’t fuck with people at night especially down town unless you want your throat slit or a bullet to the chest, so I start the car and attempt to find somewhere to park. I end up in the parking lot of some gas station about two blocks away from where I saw the boy against the fence. Red numbers stare at me from the dashboard as I stop the car, they warn me it’s already eleven o’ clock. I mentally berate myself for not calling Benji already, I cant imagine how worried he is and I decide I’ll have to call him from the first pay phone I find. I get out of the car cautiously wishing Billy was with me, that anyone was with me, I can feel eyes on me from all angles, eyes watching from the shadows all plotting against me. Of course there’s no one watching me, there’s no one even in the parking lot with me, I’m just being paranoid…so paranoid.

I walk out of the parking lot, my footsteps seem to echo against the pavement and every now and then I turn my head nervously afraid to find some knife wielding psycho following me. I wish more than anything I was Benji right now, Benji just has that look…that intimidating, ‘you fuck with me and you will get hurt..’ look. I push my hands into my pockets, suddenly I’m not cold anymore, my heart is racing a million miles a minute and all I’m thinking about is getting to that fence, finding out if that guy was in fact Billy. A few people pass me every now and then but they’re going in the opposite direction and none of them give me more than a glance before going on there way. Cars pass me too, some zoom by and others pass by slow and sluggishly, their occupants giving me stares as they pass. I’m thankful for the thick sidewalk I’m walking on did it not exist I would most likely have been run over already but I suppose that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

I’m about to turn the corner to reach the area where I saw the boy when I tall blonde steps in front of me. She’s reeking with cigarette smoke and sex and cheap perfume that is so strong it seems like she bathed in it. She smiles at me, a big smile that curves her silicone lips in an absurd manner. “You up for some fun tonight?” She asks while pushing a strand of fried blonde hair from her face with bright red fingernails. She’s appalling to me, I can only gape at her appearance in a disgusted shock. She’s a hooker that of course does not have to be explained to me, she’s a hooker and she wants me to fuck her. “Aww come on…you look like you could use some fun?” She smiles again and pushes her hand through her hair, the movement makes her tiny tank top move up exposing her flesh and pushing her breasts together to reveal more cleavage. She laughs, a laugh I assume is meant to be flirtatious but it just makes my stomach churn. “I could take you places you aint ever been before doll.” She drops her hand from her hair and extends the other one to my chest tracing imaginary shapes on it’s surface. I push her hand away in repulsion and shake my head.

“No…I… I have to be somewhere.” It’s all I can think to say and I cant help but notice the instant change in her expression.

“You think I’m a dirty slut don’t you…afraid you’re going to get diseases?” She glares at me as she makes the accusations. “I’ll have you know I’m fucking clean, so if you think you’re going to catch something from me then you’re fucking wrong!!” She turns then on her plastic heel and starts down the street flicking me off over her shoulder as she walks away. I cant help the laughter that escapes my lips as she walks away, there’s something funny about the whole thing. I Joel Madden somehow managed to insult a hooker and I don’t even know how I did it. After a few more minutes of dwelling on it I start around the corner hoping to find Billy.

“It depends on what you want me to do…” It’s the hookers voice, I see her before I see anyone else, She’s standing in front of the fence obviously talking to someone, and all I can do is pray that someone isn’t Billy. I watch from the shadows hoping she might move out of the way so I could get a look at who she’s talking to, she doesn’t move though but instead the male speaks…

“Could you grow a penis?” There’s something bitter in the males words, and it’s almost as though he’s tossing them at her trying to hurt her. Just by hearing his voice I know who it is…

It’s Billy…but what the hell is he doing down town talking to a hooker?

“No…but I could…I could do things to you, real good things, you wouldn’t ever want cock again.” I realize the hooker didn’t realize he was being cruel, because she’s still attempting to get with him for the night.

I hear him sigh, “Go away slut…find yourself someone else to fuck.” He lets the words drop flatly from his mouth. My mind however cant fathom how he is being so cruel, he almost seems like another person.

“You fucking bastard!” She curses while throwing back her hair and walking past him, “obviously all the assholes are out tonight!” I watch her as she swiftly walks away and then my gaze falls on Billy, he sighs again and slides down the fence pulling a cigarette from his back pocket and lighting it shakily. He eyes the cigarette as he pulls it away from his mouth to exhale, I wonder if I should make my presence known to him but before I can get control of my body I step forward out of the shadows.

“I thought you didn’t smoke…” I say slowly trying not to burst into tears because of my joy of seeing him again. He looks up immediately upon hearing my voice but something is different about his gaze, there’s a wall between us again, a wall and I cant help but wonder when it formed.

“I thought you didn’t care.” He shrugs and flicks ash off the end of his cigarette, “You would have had me leave without you…” He takes a slow steady drag of the cigarette making sure I see every movement of his mouth around it, every bit of smoke. It’s almost as though he’s saying, ‘look at me, look at how easily I can kill myself’. I sigh, the sound is almost identical to his own and I wonder if it was I who picked the habit up from him or he who picked it up from me. I slide down next to him and stare forward at the passing cars letting my lungs breath in his smoke.

“The police, they’re looking for you.” I wonder why we’re bothering with talking, when all I want to do is yank down the intangible wall between us and touch him. “They questioned me…”

He nods and stares at the same nameless cars that I’m staring at, “I love you.” And the words are consumed by the wind almost immediately but I hear them, I heard them as soon as they left his lips and there is no way he’s going to be able to deny them now.

“Billy…” But he gets up and throws his cigarette to the floor watching it suffocate with it’s contact against the pavement. “…and that’s why it’s my turn to push you away.”

So this is the reason behind his odd behavior, he means to push me away, save my heart from breaking harder than it already has? But who is he to decide how my heart should be broken?

He’s walking away…I’m so busy trying not to cry, not to scream, that I don’t even realize he’s walking in the other direction until now. I run after him at once of course. “Billy!!” I scream his name pathetically begging him to hear the need in my voice, I want to tell him he’s failed…he cant push me away because love, whatever love is, magical, chemical, physical, whatever it is…I feel it, I feel it so strongly for him that it’s nearly suffocating.

He turns and yanks his beanie from his head in aggravation, he moves a hand to his messy hair and grabs at it, “God Joel you don’t even know who I am!! I’ll be your fucking ruin, I will destroy you.” I’ve never heard him scream nor have I ever seen his face distort into so many emotions at once but here he is yelling at me near tears and near exploding and I cant help but think he’s still beautiful.

I make a cautious step forward not sure if his flinging hands might extend forward and snap with my cheek, not sure that’s he isn’t going to run away…not sure of anything except the fact that I have to touch him. “I know you’re name is Billy, I know when you smile it’s the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen…” I take two more steps, he’s silent now, his gaze locked on me the sign of tears begging to fall evident in his eyes.

“I know I’ve memorized you a dozen times in my head…I know you cry sometimes although you’d like to believe no one knows…” Another step.

“…I know you’re hurting…I’ve seen the marks you’ve embedded into your skin…” I take one more step and reach out touching his jaw as I slowly move my mouth towards his. “I know…” our lips meet and I breath the final words onto his lips, “I love you.”

He doesn’t pull away nor does he react to the kiss, he simply stands there, stands with his hands at his side and his lips on mine unmoving. So I pull away wanting bullets to shower down from the sky wanting rabid dogs to pounce on me ripping me open and tearing out my insides…I pull away and turn my back to him and I walk away…

“Joel…” Defeat, it’s the only thing I can make out in his tone. “Come on…I’m staying at a hotel not too far from here.”

I face him, take all of him in, the way he’s standing against the fence, the tears that are forming at the rim of his eyes, the tears I know are for me, I take it all in with careful detail.

And then…

I step forward, I lean into his chest, into his arms, I let myself die in his arms, let Joel Madden fade away until all I can feel is the person I am when I’m his. He holds me for what seems like hours, his silent lips never removing themselves from the top of my head, his gaze never wavering from the road. “I’m sorry.” He finally mumbles to me softly while rubbing my back comfortingly, “…that I yelled...” There’s more that he wants to say but he holds it back, keeping it from escaping off the tip of his tongue. I nod, it’s meant to tell him I accept his apology, that I understand.

When we pull apart he looks at me, stares at me with his lined eyes…his beautiful blue charcoal lined eyes. There’s sadness oozing from his gaze, “If you run with me you’ll be just as much a suspect as me…”

“I know…”

He touches my chin softly and tilts it to the side and with a slow steady movement he leans in slowly touching my lips with his own. It’s fireworks for the moment, fireworks and stars and then his mouth is off mine again and its cold air and night breezes. “But you don’t Joel…” And there’s that familiar sadness in his tone. He lets out a shaky breath and casts his gaze to the floor, “You don’t know how much you’ll have to sacrifice to be with me…” He looks up again and touches my cheek gently. His tears are gone and his lips are formed into a pout, he looks so kissable, but I don’t kiss him. “Joel…I think, sometimes loving someone…means giving them up…”

He waits for my reaction, but I just stand there playing the words on repeat in my mind. I know there’s some truth in them but all I can see them as is words of doom, words thrown at people as a threat. “But I can’t…I cant.”

He doesn’t argue with me and I’m aware it’s because he knows that he can’t do it either. We both had tried so hard to push each other away. We had tried to save each other from the most painful heartache but both of us had failed and had finally come to realize we were inevitably doomed to our fate, bound to it like prisoners, our only salvation resting in whatever mercy the world might give us.

Silence hangs over us as we walk toward the hotel. I breathe in the night, let it’s scent fill my lungs. Billy’s beside me now, his feet rising and falling against the pavement in some sort of a rhythm. I feel him brush against me but he says nothing. Words have suddenly become useless, they’re pretty ornaments to color up feelings and fill awkward silences. The simple words ‘I love you’ could never do any real justice in describing my feelings for him…I’m aware of this now more than I’m aware of anything else.



“There’s no happy ending for us Joel…” His words are like an assault on my ears, his morbid tone and undeniable seriousness chill me. I don’t bother to speak, I just stare ahead… I stare at the empty sidewalk, the empty stores, the empty people that every now and then pass us in heated cars. I stare at everything I’m not a part of because that’s all I can do, stare ahead and continue walking. The subject of course dies almost immediately after his first words, there’s nothing left to say about it, there’s no words that could fall from my lips that could make his words seem like less of a truth, less of a fact. I of course want to run my cold fingers through his hair, I want to absorb all his heat, all of him just so that I might prove him wrong…but I cant even bring myself to speak.




“Come here...” He stops and turns, the moons rays dance upon his face and reflect off his lip ring as he stares at me. He tugs me toward his side, the contact instantly begins to warm me and very slowly I feel pieces of me reconstructing themselves, pieces that will only repair themselves to undoubtedly be broken all over again. We walk the whole way to the hotel like that, his arm securely around my waist, my side touching his. I feel secure being so close to him, but the security is a falsity for I know any moment he could be torn away from me, any moment we could be ripped apart.




As we walk my thoughts begin to stray toward Benji, not because any one thing reminds me of him…he simply just pops into my head. I need to call him but I wont ask Billy for his cell phone, the moment is too perfect to destroy with the sound of my voice. So we walk…




The hotel is big, bigger than I would have imagined. I recognize it as one I’ve probably seen on a million billboards and a million commercials, it’s not an insanely expensive hotel so much as it’s a popular one. I stare at the glass doors for a moment before I can actual move, I suppose I’m still getting over that he’s even real or that the moment in itself is real. “Did you change your mind?” He questions as I falter in front of the doors. I don’t reply immediately, instead my eyes stray to the inside of the hotel. There’s a pretty receptionist, brown hair and big full lips, she’s checking in two young parents and their adorable six year old son. I see the smile plastered to the brunettes red lips as she hands them a key and tells them their room number, her smile seems to touch every inch of her face and I have to wonder if it’s even real at all. I doubt it is…nobody is ‘that’ happy this late at night or that happy any time in the day. The father is all smiles as he takes the key, they all appear infused with happiness. Perhaps for the moment they are, the husband ,might be a cheating bastard the wife might be having an affair with the pool boy for all I know, but tonight they are the perfect couple. Isn’t that what everyone does though? Put on false fronts, paint their lives up with exaggerated smiles? Minutes after he has the key they disappear, the elevator eats them but they’re not really gone. No, in minutes they’re going to step into their lovely suite, they’ll talk about summer vacations and their son’s first day in kindergarten. They’ll reminisce with big smiles and then they’ll call down to the receptionist so they can order food up to their room…




It’s normal, it’s uncomplicated…it’s everything I’m never going to have because I chose something beautiful instead of something stable. I chose Billy Martin and suddenly I have to wonder if I would have been just as well off had I chosen a dream.




I shake my head anyway, “No…” I mean the words of course, despite everything, I still want to be with him, just him. It’s funny suddenly, how fairy tales and movies depict love as some beautiful thing, something usually associated with happiness. Love isn’t happiness, it isn’t getting what you want, it isn’t about keeping it. It’s a disease, it crawls into your mind and infests you, it controls you, distracts you…claims you. It had claimed me…




He slides his hand into mine, his fingers are cold, “You’re freezing…”




Blue eyes, his, they meet mine, and they’re so broken so utterly unfixable, “I’m always cold…”




He pulls me into the hotel and toward the elevator, I can feel the brunettes gaze on us as he guides me through the large lobby. I wonder if she can tell by looking at us that we’re in love, can she see that I would give up everything for him in an instant…or is all she sees are two guys. Two guys too young to know real pain and too old to know real innocence…




We stand outside closed doors as we wait for the elevator to return to our floor. The doors are cool and steel colored, our reflection is hazy in their surface. I stare at Billy’s reflection trying to grasp how it’s possible that I’m even standing beside him, finally the doors open and we step into the tiny boxed room that will lead us to our floor. I lean against the wall of the elevator watching Billy as he presses the button for our floor. After his finger connects with the circular button he turns to me and slides next to me against the wall. “Steve was my boyfriend…” He says refusing to meet his gaze with mine. I’m aware the words are a confession for him and I almost interrupt to say something but he continues.




“I met him when I was just a kid, fourteen years old and he was my fucking god. He introduced me to drugs, sex…stealing. He liked using the words, ‘I love you’, they were a way to control me, ‘I love you Billy…now how about you put your mouth around my cock again.’, he was what, seventeen at the time?” He pauses and pushes an annoying strand of hair from his eyes, he’s talking more than he’s ever talked, he’s giving me pieces of himself, giving me his past. He turns and looks at me, his eyes full of something, hurt perhaps but there’s also trust, “I trusted him…” He begins but the dinging of the elevator sends both our gazes toward the doors. In minutes they’re open and a guy and a girl make their way into the tiny space. The guy is beautiful, blue eyes and dark brown hair spiked to perfection, the girl is plain not unattractive…just somewhat boring when compared to her companion. They automatically remind me of me and Billy, I of course am the girl, the boring one.




They move to the space at the left of us and lean against the wall eyeing us with curiosity. “It’s rude to stare.” Billy states while wrapping his arm around my waist as if to claim ownership over me for the moment.




“I…I wasn’t.” The girl falters in her speech and the boy shoots Billy a death glare almost immediately.




“You two fags?” He asks while staring pointedly at Billy’s arm that’s so securely around my waist. I look to Billy for his reaction but he says nothing and instead pulls me against his chest locking his hands together near my navel. I can feel his heart beat distinctly against my back, it’s soft and calm...




“Well?” The boy continues to prod. All at once his beauty is gone, his tone is disgusting, it drips with ignorance and ugliness and all I can see is the repulsiveness of his insides.




“He’s my boyfriend if that’s what you mean.” He says coldly while giving the boy a look so lethal I’m surprised he doesn’t drop dead on the spot. “Now if you’ll excuse us…” He unwraps his arms from me and yanks me toward the doors. As if on cue the elevator stops and the doors ding open and I’m aware he must have been watching the floor numbers above the doors as they changed. “We have to go.”




In seconds we’re out of the elevator, the interaction between the strangers instantly becoming a memory, something to be forgotten. I think about it only for a moment as he directs me toward our room. I’d never been looked at so strangely or with so much contempt and although it shouldn’t bug me…it does.




“You okay?” Billy asks probably wondering why I look so distant…why I look so hurt.




“Yeah.” I smile, a nice big fake smile…




And of course he sees right through it. “No you’re not.” He stops walking and pulls me against the hallway his hands holding me softly in place by holding my sides. “People…they suck Joel. All that matters is you…what you want okay?” He checks my eyes for understanding, but all I can offer him is a simple nod. He sighs and pulls me away from the wall and we continue toward our room.




I let the incident drift from my mind…well no, I force it from my mind because he’s right…all that matters is what I want…and all I want of course…is him.
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