Once again quiet had laid its covers over the small town. Night had come as one regular part of day, and the peace of sleep had already engulfed Baysville's inhabitants.
All but two, that is.
Grace Baptist Church and Number Twenty-One Tickle-Naked-Lakeside Lane were within walking distance from each other, but the father, living here, and the son, living there, could not be any farther apart. Neither one was willing to go that little distance and retrieve what they had lost; not by meeting in the middle, that is. The most recent chapter in their lives had shown that the middle was not an issue.
That did not mean that the chapter was closed, however. There still existed lonely thoughts; and who knows, some of them might even involve hope
On one side of the little town square, overlooking the part of the village that almost evenly urged towards the waterfront, rested the plain white church. It did not look much different from any other midsummer night - the front was alight, beams throwing their light onto the façade and the message board, which was announcing a nearing event of serious matter once again. Swarms of night flies were circling the neatly cut lawn in front of the building, here and there causing a sizzling sound whenever one would find an end on one of the menacingly compelling bulbs.
Round the back of the plain building the mullioned windows stood an inch ajar and a slight breeze pushed into a room, billowing the white curtains into the flapping sails on a sea-borne barque. A meter in front, the thinning hair yielding to the nightly draught, sat I. Yes, and I could feel it all, see it all, hear, taste it, and I would really rather have lost myself in numbness.
It was dark, with the exception of my tiny desk lamps flaring eye. Before me waited yet another glass to jade my senses. What the amber content was, I could not tell anymore. I had tried so many variations of the liquid drug, had bought stronger every bloody day of the last week, it didn't matter much if only it worked its ways.
I had had someone else take on my services for that same time. What his name was - I had forgotten; something like Roberts, I think. Why it was not even important. He did not ask questions and I was gladly officially ill. What my ailment was - screw it. Who cared? Richards had probably thought of something plausible to tell everybody. It didn't concern me much. There was only one thing my brain would and could care about - my boy.
Could you imagine, I had run down to the Jones's on the first day - had made an absolute fool of myself. That was after my first night spent with alcohol. I had puked right into their front garden. That was the reason the whole town now knew foolish Pastor Creed had taken ill.
Yeah, and ever since last Wednesday he hadn't looked himself anyhow. You know, they say it's his heart. Someone from school said Creed just found out he has a son. And they say that kid is in fact a homosexual.
I grimaced in disgust. They were revolting, those insatiable hyenas.
I wanted him back; the rest was an overwhelmingly surreal cloudy dream buzzing in my head. It kept telling me about a twisted teenager, a boy who was irretrievably drifting into deepest darkness, who was completely in evils hands, whom I could not rescue anymore. My heart spoke plainer words - just back - need my boy.
Since that first mortifying event at their front yard, I had not dared go back down there, had called instead - something like twice a day. In the mornings to apologize and ask whether Jonathan would talk to me, at night to say the things I would have to apologize for the next morning. If not before, now Jodie had a real reason to hate me. His father was a drunkard who would not quit harassing him and his foster-family. What a load of crap - foster-family! I was - I had - have a right to my son!
A plan had been forming for the last hours. That would be my next step tomorrow. I would take legal actions. I had not touched the phone one single time tonight, and it was already two. I would keep my thoughts to myself this time, would be officially recovering from illness and at the same time slyly shoving the unforgiving arm of law up Ted Jones's forgive me Lord for I have sinned. I might just have lost just that bit of faith in you. I felt my lips curve and snickered to myself in artificial elation. Soon I would get them. Yeah, thought that after losing one fag they could take my boy and turn him into the one to fill in - I'm going to give you what you deserve. I ain't budging, not Creed the pastor. You've looked for the wrong guy to mess with
Finally, my mind blanked out and my head fell on the desk just some seconds after I had started to snore.
Outside, the beautiful little house near the water showed nothing but peaceful darkness.
Inside, I did not know how long I had been staring at the ceiling. I was a bit too warm under the blankets, felt a little restless. Really, actually, I could not have hoped for better. The moon shone through a large window, water kept splashing a few feet down the back garden. Soft reflections were forming deluding moving patterns on the ceiling. I was liked enough to be able to lie here in my own stanza, in my own bed, to look at my very own ceiling. Still, why was I not content, why did I not go to sleep? I was waiting for the phone to shrilly rip me out of my moods again. It was two-thirty and he had not yet called. He must have called every night for a whole week now. I had never agreed to take the phone and talk to him. Instead I had been furious every time, because he just kept harassing us, and embarrassing me. Still, why had he not called yet?
I was actually waiting for it. I did have to stop hoping, hope had died a while ago.
All that thinking and being wistful was tiring me; it was time he showed me again why I hated him so much - call damn it!
The thin panes could not shut out the maddening croaking of the frogs outside; everything else around me was dark disquieting silence. I watched dust float through moonlight at the window and let my moods shift a little towards sadness. Tonight, meant not going easily to sleep being angry. If he did not call, I would not close my eyes with last thoughts of forced content.
"Nothing could have been different, nothing could have taken another turn, not with this fucking homophobe, basta," I told myself still. I wished it had. I let the pressure on my chest make me weaker, did not manage to stifle the sob that was pushed up my throat.
Cazzo! Why the fuck? Why did I have to be this way? Why couldn't I be that good God-fearing boy that everyone expected me to be? Why was this so hard? Why did I have to turn into this damn faggot! I had made everyone who once loved me, who was once proud of me, all of them hated me now.
The particles of dust kept silently floating as my face was stained with proof of my weakness. After a minute the pillow was wet, and my flushed cheeks started to itch. Forcefully, I wiped my face with the cloth and turned the pillow around.
Now I was angry that I had let myself go there at all. I was not some crying sissy, not for him. I would show how strong I was. I exhaled.
My eyes wandered back to the ceiling - call damn it!
Dust was lazily floating through hazy light and after another restless while my eyes finally closed.
I jerked out of an uneasy sleep. The desk lamps cruel light had done a great job at nearly frying my face. I stretched my hand to shut it off and knocked the small glass to the floor. It shattered. Now I was awake, or rather conscious enough to be punished with a severe headache. Damn! Three-fifteen - my hand touched the phone. I blinked at it. The move must have happened inadvertently. I cupped my eyes in my hands, fighting back that nauseating feeling. I would not call, though, not tonight, not tomorrow, not before the scheme started to take effect.
Slowly, I raised my leaden body, and, feeling my way through the twilight, slouched off into the hall. I flicked the light into the bathroom on just to flinch back. The dazzling fluorescence was too bright to bear, so I grabbed for the switch again and continued in silent darkness. A squeak got through to my fog-surrounded brain - I must have kicked the cat.
If my body was heavy, it was nothing to how my head felt. My neck could barely hold it upright and I felt eerily lopsided. I concentrated to hold it straight and went on groping around in the dark, fumbling for my toothbrush, cleaning my teeth and getting that stale taste out of my mouth, trying to lay the brush back, dropping it somewhere in front of the sink. I went over to the left, dizzily supported myself at the wall in front, and smashed something else while flushing the toilet; then I couldn't stand on my feet much longer. I wouldn't remember how long it had taken me, or how I had managed at all, but after some time I was lying on the covers of my bed, feeling utterly miserable. There had been something - I had been thinking about something all night, now I had forgotten what it was, couldn't have one straight thought, felt so distracted - that darn bed! Something was poking into my stomach, and though I twisted and turned I could neither get onto my back nor have that thing removed from under me. My pillow was hard as rock, and I could feel it press streaks into my face. The fingers of my left hand were closing around empty air, as I was confusedly feeling for the sheets. Next morning, I would find that I'd been sleeping on them...the room started rotating a bit faster and luckily, I drifted to deep slumber before I could feel the lurching in my stomach and the effects it would have moments later. I would not be all too pleased the next morning, but then I never was. This had become normality. Another one of Earnest Creed's nights would just go by; many others had done so before.
When my eyes had opened again, and again I had got through the first shock of waking in this yet unfamiliar room and bed, I probed my stomach for the feeling of the day, and it already felt sucky. He had not called, and I had been and still was angry about that - and confused. He had given up at last. Or did he think that he had made enough of an appropriate effort and could now properly let it be? I was properly abandoned now?
Eerie, how much that man I had met just like two months ago had affected me. All of it just because at some point some idiot thought it a wonderful idea to tell me Creed was il mio padre vero. Come to think of it, I should have come with no expectations at all; that smart guy had probably told me that, too. I had told myself enough times. Yet, I had hoped deep down inside. Its hope that dies last, isn't it?
All family I might have had had turned their backs on me.
Pans loudly rattled downstairs and a pang of guilt filled my conscience. I wasn't abandoned; it was just my past that had got rid of me. This was my present, possibly my future. This was everything the Jones had offered me, a gift I was unsure if I actually deserved it.
I untangled myself from the covers and got up, stepping to the window.
It was early morning. The sky had just passed the early ruby colour, and already it announced to become another warm day.
The nights chill had sunk to the ground, and the air had condensed all over. Dew was glistening on the grass down in the back garden, competing with the lakes multicoloured shimmering, which started exactly at the border of the lawn. Picture perfect and perfect - that was just that something that obviously didn't match up with me.
I opened the window and leaned out. Slowly, deliberately, air flowed through my nostrils. Amazing, how air could taste so light. It was a huge contrast to the polluted dust my body had had to filter into O for sixteen years.
"Mornin young man!"
I looked down again. Ted stood there trying to make up for the freshness of the air with his morning pipe. He grinned up at me warmly.
"You need to eat more, boy. Martha says breakfast is waiting in the kitchen. And get dressed. Heard the teens are already gatherin for the treat." He was waving around with his pipe while he said it.
I was still in boxers, my pale upper body shining pallid in the sunlight. In that precise order I blushed crimson, stuttered morning, tried a smile and left the open window.
After picking up some clothes I trudged into the bathroom. A short look into the mirror - yup, the spot on my chin was healing. I rubbed and looked for new ones. None. No more to mess up my already blighted features. I went to take a shower after emptying my bladder, and let the warm cleansing wet run over my still fatigued limbs. It had been a long night. Refreshed I faced myself in the reflecting glass again. Myopically, I stared at myself while the automated movements managed to bring the toothbrush and tube together and have my mouth cleaned within three minutes.
My eyes still lingered on the image staring back at me. Weird. Non comme la mia famiglia. What I saw was a deviation. My whole family looked different, or what I knew of them. I really didn't know whether Creed had once been blond as well - well, probably. But this was not really a younger version of him grimacing back at me either. This weird kid had an edge. I was skinny beyond reason. Right, I was only looking at my face here, but it already started with the neck. It was awfully long, and thin. My chin was dominate, my face, also, too thin to be containing much. And yet, there they were. My lips were not thin at all, the nose long, of course.
My eyes were a boring green; brown eyebrows, too dark to fit the rest of my hair, went along with them. My ears were huge. But all of it, I had kinda hidden, concealed under kinda blond hair. A mess. I combed it, and then shook, now more of an intended mess. It wouldnt be any other way. If I cut it short, my whole face would look even longer. Gangly - five foot eleven - all bones. I gave up after another minute and made my way downstairs, my self-deprecation forgotten over thoughts of Creed.
Downstairs I let my mind turn to another delicious breakfast.
"Ready to tuck in, eh?" Ted grinned stepping through the terrace door.
"Hungry?" Martha asked.
"Yeah," I replied, hoping to have instilled enough fervour into the word.
Ted took the seat at the left side, while Martha sat to my right. It was as good as it had looked and smelled - perfect. And Ted certainly looked it. Again, eating, he looked like it was hard work to stay that comfortably round-bellied man in his mid-fifties.
I hardly touched what I had in front of me, no matter how good it was and how wasted I felt. Ted seemed to understand, though. He sent me a reassuring, full-mouthed wink across the table. Thankfully, I smiled back. And I was grateful. This was more than I deserved. He winked again. A very mischievous grin from some years ago had left visible traces on his face. It was something I liked about him, a feature he probably still showed, when he was up to something. His hair was still full, but had turned grey some time ago. He didn't look old, though, just so incredibly worn. It seemed that he smiled only for me lately. One could not only see but also feel him suffer and pine for his son.
Martha was different. The lady that was every bit as small as her husband did not show any outward reaction to anything that had happened. She smiled regularly, making her original brunette beauty come to light around her wrinkled eyes and mouth. But when Ted sat outside, his face hard in thought and agony, she would still bustle about the house. I figured that in some way she was deeply suffering. She did blame herself; that I could feel. She must really be blaming her running off a year ago. Sometimes she stayed in her room for hours. I'd never dared to ask what she was doing then. I tried to be there, though, for all they gave me, I wanted to return a bit of the feeling of supportive comfort. Often enough, however, I would stay alone by myself to think just the same.
This time around ten Ted found me out back on the skiff dock. I had been sitting there cross-legged, staring out at the lake. He put a guitar case down beside me. I did not get up, thinking he would join me, but he stayed on his feet and looked down at me.
"Dint want to give it to you at first. It belonged to Steve. I opened it once, when I went to his room a few days ago. It smells like him still. Doin me no good, though, sniffin a big ole guitar. Thought, you better have it."
My eyes formed a question mark.
"Don't you worry kid. Just figured you used to play. You have the same hands, young St" he didn't finish but turned to walk back to the house.
I jumped up and grabbed his sleeve. With a short smile and the saddest eyes, he gave me a furtive nod and retreated back indoors.
Looking at the case, I fell down again with itching eyes. My hands reached out and I reverently stroked it. First one finger, then the rest closed around the handle, pulled it to me - I cradled it, momentarily dumbstruck. I must have been heaving. This was so unfair. Tears started to leak out of my eyes one by one. Slowly I rocked back and forth with Steve's treasure. When I had at last finished that ridiculous game, I went inside to clean up. It did not take long, and I was back out with the guitar, however. Cross-legged again, I let the locks snap open one after another, and slowly lifted the lid.
It was beautiful - old, used, plain - but someone had handled it with such scrupulous care, as a real treasure. I laid my hand around the slender neck and raised it out of its bed. With my other hand I grabbed the body and set it in my lap. It did have a scent. And the scent clearly belonged to a person. I thought that person must have smelled wonderful. It had once belonged to him. My eyes threatened to well up again, so I commenced to do what I thought Ted had wanted me to do - lay aside the shyness and fear of another's, of his sons past, and try to make it my treasure.
I tuned it, polished it, looked at it for some time before I dared to play. It sounded weird when my fingers ran over the strings. I tried to concentrate on a melody, or just the movement, but it still sounded odd. Soon I found out why. As I inspected the sound hole, I saw something stuck inside. Carefully I slid my fingers in between the strings and pulled the stack of paper out.
Steven had been writing songs. I stared at the papers. Steven was dead.
It felt awkward to take off the rubber band holding the roll together. To read the very first lines of the first sheet felt awfully wrong. It was the only one sticking in an envelope. The cover told me to Read this first. No, clearly, this wasn't directed at me, and I felt bad. Something told me I was crossing a line. I was too curious.
If you only knew how special all of this is to me. I've wanted to tell you for so long now. But as much as I feel it deep inside, my heart still can't make my mind find the right words for what we have. Somehow that fills me with pride. This has always been your strength. This is what my special guy is good at, and he lets me feel it every day anew. But I needed to let you feel it, too. I wanted to tell you in some special way only you deserve, but I couldn't think of one, when one night I thought that maybe a song would be the right thing for me to write for you. It was so easy from there, just finding a melody with you in the back of my head, but I also wanted your song to be filled with words of meaning. The same meaning you filled my life with.
This has taken me so long now, and I am glad to be finally finished. I just didn't want you to hear it when it wasn't absolutely perfect for you. So much more so, because it's the only deep thing I know how to do. I do it for you.
I choose this as my small gift to you, as my thank you for spending so much love on me. I hope it will make you see how I feel deep down inside, how you've made me become able to feel this way. And I hope it will make you smile with me, be happy with me, be proud of me, make you see that I can let you in on all my secrets, my soul, and make you love me more.
This is for you, my other half. Thank you so much for being my true light and guidance. I love you too much to be true. I don't know what I would do without your love, without loving you.
I know I won't ever stop.
I didn't go on.
I threw the sheets back into the case and shut the guitar inside as well.
I ran upstairs, left it on my bed and went to the living room. I didn't know what to do. I switched the TV on and off, again and again, staring before me, paralysed. If I had been able I would have cried, smashed something, done anything, but I was just overwhelmed.
Merda! Pazzia Pura that bastard!
I couldn't believe it. My father was the bastard who had destroyed all this! I really couldn't understand it. Sissy though I was, no tears came this time. Not in this place, not where everyone else had a real right to suffer and grieve. He had done this! I was so boundlessly angry. Then I became afraid. What did the Jones see in me? I was the son of that ruthless devil who'd killed their son. They surely had no reason to help me like they did.
Their son had run his car into a fucking tree because my dad had fucking broadcasted that he wasn't worth being called a good person! My father was the reason that, to everybody he might have loved, Steven was a fucking abomination! I was the fucking abomination! I was that devils son! I must be worthlessno! Controllati!...Ma non capito un cazzoperche?
After a few minutes I was ashamed of my family. I couldn't stay, not at that moment. The clock told me it was an hour till noon. It was Saturday; I would lose myself in the crowd in town again. After calling to my - I didn't know how to call them - family sounded so wrong. Family were those people who destroyed others' lives with their ignorance and hatred. And I couldn't be Steven to Martha and Ted.
I told them I'd be out for a while and went to stroll through town. Thoughts could roam freely when exposed to fresh air and solitude among flocks of bustling people. Wandering around aimlessly and leaving thoughts of sadness and anger behind on my way, I got lost in watching the activity and the people. I was a spectator - no personal problems could touch me - just watching from the outside. The lake couldn't be seen anymore, falling back behind me, as I wandered further into the centre. Its air was everywhere around me, though, even as I finally reached midtown, which was busy in the heat of bright daylight.
At one point, I had been roaming town for thirty minutes only, a boy tapped my shoulder and said, "Creep ain't in." When I turned around he just muttered, "Oh, sorry" and ran off. But when I turned back, I found that I was actually standing in front of the white church building. I gave it a long-dumbfounded stare before I turned around to maybe get some ice cream somewhere, or possibly talk to someone who might care. I stuffed that second pang of guilt to the back of my head, thinking of Ted and Martha. They suffered from their own fate already. The last thing they needed were my troubles to add to theirs.
The stuffy business outside was shut out instantly when I closed the door to the cosy and cool coffee shop behind me.
"Hi kid," the man lazily leaning to the counter greeted me.
"Hi Dave," I responded. I had already dismissed the ice cream idea and went instead for a cappuccino with which I trundled to the back of the book section.
I liked this place. Somehow, I guess, this shop and the Jones where the two spots I felt kinda okay. It would have felt like home, if there weren't too many homes already crumbling in my past.
Dave knew something was up with me, he always did. I think I'd been here for the last four weeks, and I don't think I was in a happy mood just once, so that did not really count. But he pretty much left me and didn't give me those strange or worried looks that I seemed to get all over the place usually. Pastor Creeds gay son - I was freaking famous. If they knew I didn't really despise girls either, I'd probably be thrown out of the gay community as well.
Dave wouldn't care if I told him. He was someone I could talk to, he was a great listener, and he knew stuff. Guess sometimes you just needed someone older and more experienced to look up to.
Today I did not feel like talking. I went through the few rows looking at the covers. The Script was pretty quiet. It was shortly before lunchtime. Normally I would have been uncomfortable to be the only one - my footsteps being the only sound, well, except for spasmodic scraping at the back door. I took a book and sat down putting the cup beside me.
The book must be quite all right, the first page made me smile. Soon, though, my thoughts had wandered and were someplace else.
The song, Stevens song, had Greg ever heard it? Did he know even? Should he? It was already hard on me, and I hadn't even known Steven. Just reading the lettermi fa crepare.
I recalled the image of Gregory standing in the graveyard, silently looking at Steve's grave. He went there every day, didn't cry, didn't speak. Once he and the Jones's had met, that's when he had comforted them. Comforted them - hadn't wanted to be comforted. He didn't let anybody get near.
"Hello?" an uncertain voice floated into my thoughts.
"Uh hi," I focused on the person in front of me; the slim legs sticking out of the apron belonged to Kody.
He was a nice guy. He had partly been the reason why I had had a fight with my father. But he too, hadn't been able to make it be different. Nobody had been, could have been.
We looked at each other, curiously.
There at that moment, seeing those inquiring eyes, I wanted to scream it out, tell him right there, tell him everything that was pressuring me, that was constraining my chest. I wanted to explode.
"Hi," I whispered again. I looked around, Dave was gone.
He registered a small smile, "Nice of you to come by again. You haven't let anyone see you for weeks now. We were starting to worry."
I looked down on my knees, "Sorry."
He looked excusing instantly, "I didn't mean it that way, sorry."
Still, I didn't look up, "No, um, I'm sorry."
No sound came for a moment and I was tempted to look up at last. I was looking into a smirk.
"No, really Jodie, I said it all wrong, look I am so-"
"All right, all right, this is getting ridiculous."
I got up, slightly angry that I was being such an ass, and put the book back on the shelf.
I turned to him, "Huh?"
"You're not mad at me or something, are you?"
I shook my head, "No."
At the door, I looked back and made my measly attempt at a smile, "Guess I'm just not great company right now, scusami."
"Don't worry about it. Err, you might be able to make it up, though maybe?" his eyes wandered to the counter with a look that sought for help. "Just thought we could do something?"
I shrugged, "Sure, why not?" I didn't really mean it, but it just wasn't any use hurting everyone around me.
"The guys are gonna be jamming later; wanna go join them and watch. It'll be fun."
"Uhno, don't wanna intrude-uh don't really feel like noise today" I sunk my head.
"Oh, okay then how about in an hour at the town square, in front of the chu- uh err, oh god, sorry, err, mmh, just forget I asked, okay?" He turned away with a pained look on his face.
"Yeah, I don't need that reminder, you know."
I don't know what this was. This whole Script thing turned to be really stupid. He'd just kicked my groin and still, I was feeling sorry for him. In the doorway, I sighed and made a step back, "Err, sorry Kody. It's not your fault. Let's meet at the other side of the lake, okay? The spot you showed me coupla weeks ago was alright."
He seemed to be okay again, and I didn't know why I had said anything at all. Uncertainly I touched for the door, "Guess I'll see you, ciao," I muttered on my way out.
The spot on the other side of the lake was right under a bunch of nice trees, on a small clearing. Kody had told me that he and his friends loved to go there. I guess it really was nice, but what was probably more important, it was situated right near a bunch of elderly folks, who weren't too fond of the Baysville folk. It was the typical spot for a teenager.
Kody and I had only been there once. It had also been the first time I had actually done something with somebody. I liked to stay with myself normally, but Kody was kinda okay. And he was a bit like Dave, too. Not too many odd looks, no questions, no mentioning the rumours, no pain in il culo.
I was at the spot well before the appointed time, and for a reason. Doing stuff alone was becoming regular, if even almost a bit pleasant.
The path into the lake wasn't too steep, and the water was good. It was clear enough, so you could see through it pretty well, and every once in a while, a small fish might even come up and touch your toes.
Propped on my elbows, so I could oversee everything, I just inhaled and stared into the blue sky, making up figures for the shapes of the few white clouds drifting by.
"Believe me; I am really sorry for being such an ass all the time," I spoke into the silence.
Kody had been standing behind me for a few moments. I didn't look at him.
He stepped beside me and my eyes got the better of me. When I realised that he was looking back at me I turned and looked out on the lake.
"This is a pretty spot. I very much like it
"Kody? I didn't mean to be so rude before, perdono" I whispered.
He gave me a nod, while settling to my left, "In case the last word means sorry, no need to be. You're having a hard one right now I guess."
"Sorry, I should stop that Italian stuff, no?"
"Naw, it's okay, it fits you."
"My mother never spoke English with us. We shouldn't forget the language of our fathers. And its not even the language of my father. I. . .I'll turn it off"
"No keep it. It's cool, really," he smiled with a reassuring nod. Slightly embarrassed I started to concentrate on letting sand run through my toes.
His face was radiating in the tickling sunlight and a shiny drop of moisture started to crown the tip of his nose. And my eyes were stuck on that little detail once again. Per me? No! Sono un proprio rompiballe. That wasn't for me; that was all for someone who would give him better and more than I.
As for me and love, well, I'd had my share and the future didn't appeal much to me, taunting me with its dark abusing prospects.
"Posso cercare fino a diventare cieco," I resignedly murmured to myself.
The grunt of a body shifting beside me woke me again from my gloomy thoughts, and as I looked in his direction I saw that Kody was mustering my face with mild eyes, his forehead in soft wrinkles.
"Every time you speak Italian, you either look passionate or very hurt and angry, just like now. I'm sorry its none of my business. But you are a friend? And I'm kinda worried about you, you know. Dave says you've opened a bit to him, so if there's anything, anything at all, you can talk to him or me, you know that, don't you?" Then the earnestness left his face and his eyes wandered to the water and lingered on the shallow waves that the wind drove towards the shore.
"It's really nice I'm going in. You cummin too?" he tried to change moods.
"Sure," I started to get up.
He had got rid of his t-shirt in a second and was already running towards the next little wave, throwing himself into the lake. Snorting he reappeared on the surface grinning at me with a face that made me forget my self-disgust and pity for a moment and had me trying a little smile as well. Slowly I followed him into the water, step by step, feeling the coolness creep up my thighs as I intruded further. When I was into the hips I realised that he was expectantly watching me and huffily challenged his green eyes. He let out a yelp and threw himself around, crawling away further in.
I was bashful now, looking down at myself, dreading to have taken off the shirt and exposed my bony ribcage. Quickly I bent my knees and let my upper body disappear under water. After a fleeting judder of my surprised muscles, I started to make some pathetic strokes, now feeling self-conscious about my swimming as well.
Soon I was warm, although I didn't dare to follow him, watching him crawl, dive, speedily burst through the water at some distance. When he realised I wasn't moving much he swam back again, his features concentrating as he performed perfect strokes. All too soon he was close in front of me, grinning. "Why dontcha come further in?"
I was angry with myself, not with him, for being so damn shy all of a sudden, "Don't feel like it."
"Wanna go out again?" He asked with a caring look again.
"Okay." I tried nonchalance, but I was getting annoyed with his mothering me like that.
And when we were back on our towels, lying on our stomachs and letting our dripping selves heat up in the sun, he smiled again, "We could come here every day. It would be fun, and you'd be a perfect swimmer in no time. Whatcha think?"
I felt myself turning slightly red and redirected my eyes to the island in the middle of the lake, "Uhm, okay. I'll think about it."
The rainbow coloured flag was facing this side of the shore, eagerly flapping in the breeze.
No tents were up over there today, the pole being the only one that was watching our tranquil moment.
I looked left again and met those green eyes, then I had to look away, down at my towel.
That was a really stupid idea of me to come here. He was half-naked, he was sweet, and I was being my old freaking usual self, un pezzo di merda. No, this didn't work.
"Sorry, but I really suck at this. I better go now," I gritted.
He was surprised. "Why?" he asked confusedly, but then I had already picked up my stuff and was on my way, nearly running, after coughing a quick "Ciao."
Congratulazioni to myself for achieving real goals. Id wanted to feel miserable all day. Now here I was.
It took me by surprise how quickly he'd got up to step in my way and keep me rooted to my waning little spot. He'd got hold of my shoulder and looked exactly that right mixture of contemplative, desperately hysterical, and careworn.
It was rotten timing anyhow. The touch of those fingers that I'd been stupidly craving for only minutes ago felt like an electrocution of my shoulder and the question in those earnest green eyes with the big smoky rings around the endless pupils
I knew it. I had given myself away and now he was going to fix the absurd idea of my thinking he might ever be interested. It didn't even take me a second to guess his thoughts.
Why the fuck would anyone think he'd be anything but nice to a pathetic stranger? Have feelings after three weeks of something not quite like friendship, for a bulimic looking model-rock star caricature?
He had since begun talking to me, urgent words that didn't mean much to me if they got through. Something about him caring, about him worrying, about him being scared for me, scared I might not be able to cope with this myself - oh please!
I tried to slip away again, but then I found my right wrist caught in a tight grip, which is no fun at all when you attempt at such a dramatic exit as I had at the moment.
It also caught me off guard; I hadn't expected anything of the kind.
All helpless and weary looks seemed to be of no use. He clearly wished for an explanation.
"Listen, I really got to go!" I was desperate.
"I just want to know what I've done! I thought we were going to be friends, and now you're trying to get away from me!"
"The way you're choking my hand it's no wonder."
Oh God, I was starting again. This wasn't going to end well.
"Sorry," he realised loosening the grip a little, "but I can't let go of you if you run away like that again."
"Now that we already know that you're the faster guy it would be kinda stupid of me, no?"
"Now let's see. You're a nice guy and you're trying to help. Well, don't help.
"Be nice to someone else. I don't need that."
"You know what, that's crap!"
"Good, you're getting there. Now that you've learned how to be rude to me can I go?"
"What is wrong with you? I'm just trying to help!" he grew exasperated.
I checked myself finally. I was being unfair. After some hesitation, I placed my released hand on his shoulder, a move that cost me a real effort.
"Are you in love with someone at the moment?"
Quizzically he ogled me, "Err, dunno."
"So, you are. I hope the kid is nice."
"Yeah, well I don't think I want to talk about it with you." He said in sudden tensed defiance, something I hadn't seen in him before.
There it dawned on me. "He's in love with someone else, is he?"
He looked away, weary all of a sudden, and I went on,
"Just picture that feeling every time with everyone you get emotionally attached to."
His eyes met me again.
"I tell you again. I don't need anyone anymore. I'm quite happy as it is. Go be nice to whoever he is. I'm off." I turned around.
That had been a real blow, but I was free at last. Quickly I trudged away taken by guilty feelings.
I walked so fast and yet it was such a long walk. All the time between nearly slipping and panting I was afraid that he could catch up with me again. I just didn't dare look back. All the determination in my stomps, in the way I shoved branches aside was so fake.
Had I felt his hand again I would have cried. There was no use asking that question again; the question of why I couldn't be with the people I wanted to be with. It was all so useless.
I concentrated on getting away once again.
With slow determined strides, I approached the door to those peoples' house. I smiled a grim smile, one called forth by the regained confidence that right would always eventually throw down wrong.
I had walked to a lawyer this morning as a nearly crushed figure, as a cripple of a man and now Id returned with the reborn will to bring justice upon those in sore need of it.
One, two, three, the number of steps I took, the number to which I counted before ringing the bell. Then I stepped back, waiting for my moment.
Martha Jones opened, the woman that had come back to make things worse,
"Hello Martha. It's such a shame you haven't been to our services for so long."
"Pastor, you certainly haven't come here to talk about my absence from your, uh services?"
Quite bold, ye old witch! "In assuming that, you are right indeed. I've come because of my son."
"He's not in, and I'm to tell you that he doesn't want to-"
"I know, I know, I know, spare me that, will you. I'm here to tell you that I will get him back by law if it needs be, and you know what my chances are." It took a serious endeavour not to look too smug about having regained my power.
She didn't so much as move a lid, but just stared at me defiantly the way old hags do when they don't get their right at the register when buying groceries.
"I do know about your rights pastor." She said slowly.
"So, will you let me in so I can tell him his options?"
I had stopped the polite interested manner, and it had been a command rather than anything else, but she seemed resolved to stand her ground, "As I said, he's not in, and I don't know when he'll be back."
I looked at her, so content, so glad that at last she didn't have an option left.
"What are you going to do with him?" she finally asked me with the curiosity that made my stomach tingle.
"Me? Nothing. I will just help him on his way to God." She snorted. I silenced her instantly, "I don't think you will have any say, so restrain yourself. I have found an excellent spot in a good institute for reorientation."
She didn't seem to trust her ears, "You have WHAT?"
"RESTRAIN yourself. It will do him good; surely more so than living here in this newly founded habitat of sin."
"We will not-! Never mind, you're too late anyway." Calmer, much calmer; in fact, she was too calm. This wasn't the way she was supposed to react.
"What are you talking about?" I demanded.
I was nearly home, second home, whatever. The bushes, all the wild shrubbery was still kinda barring the view to the house but soon I'd be back in my own secluded peace, away from all those temptations. Then I stopped.
"They called this morning," I heard Martha speaking at the front door.
It was Creed who answered her in an unbelieving high-pitched tremor "Have they been here? Tell me, have they been here already!"
"Yes, and they took all his stuff with them. As soon as he is back he will go as well and gladly so, and there ain't nothing you could do about it."
"How dare you! This will have consequences!"
"You can't threaten me. It will be up to him. Don't you think we knew you were going to come for him someday? We've been preparing. We've just lost a boy. We need to get over that. He'll be better off there. And as you just said, you know the law, and he'd take anything rather than let you put him in some reorientation school!"
I was rooted to the spot. Sacco di merda! This couldn't be! I was to be taken away.
Fine! Chiuso! Finito! That was it! All those freaking liars!
I HATED THEM!
Everyone got rid of me behind my back now!
There, right behind the high bushes near the house that I thought might be my home, I started trembling uncontrollably, harder and harder.
You wanna get rid of me? I'll show you how to do it right. You won't need to worry any more you filthy backstabbers!
Then I started running in the opposite direction, faster and still faster. There wasn't time for tears now. My face was contorted in absolute anger. This was more intense than anything I'd ever felt before, more than any imagined love or hatred. This would have consequences indeed!
I left the main road, ran back into the woods, turned right, away from all the houses, with all those deceiving people living inside them. My steps grew louder on the gravel path as my fury grew. Finally, I slowed down.
And there it was, my goal, Crescent Stone Bridge. I halted. I looked around me. I was alone with nature this time.
My chest expanded.
"SO YOU WANT TO GET RID OF ME?" I screamed at the tall trees bordering the brook. A flock of birds fluttered out of the treetops shrieking, and I bellowed after them.
"YOU WANT ME TO FUCKING BE OUT OF YOUR MISERABLE LIVES?
I WILL DO YOU THAT FAVOUR, OH YES I WILL don't you worry, now I will yes I will-"
Slowly I climbed the railing, one careful step and pull after another. Then, finally, I stood there on cold, flat stone, inhaling that fresh country air, opening my arms wide. I looked down at my next destination.
Unimpressed the stream seemed to trickle underneath in its flinty bed, and surely didn't worry that in a few moments it'd have to carry a few drops of my blood with it as well.
Yes, I'd make this look extra nasty for you, you fuckers! That will get your consciences to make a few extra loops, about driving another child into death! You, father, mortacci tua, you may burn in hell for this. That's what you deserve!
You, mother! That's when I started weeping, and my head nearly burst, "fuck all of you."
I was no more than a frail joke, my shoulders hunched, my arms threatening to fall to my side. Waves and waves of sobs shook that skinny figure that now stood up there on the railing of the little stone bridge. I had to hold myself upright, didn't want to just fall down like that.
Then, with one last effort, I pulled myself together and stood up straight. My arms went up.
Slowly I let my right foot step out into the air.
"Coward, coward, coward!" I hissed to myself. My right foot still rested there in midair. I had shifted all of my weight onto my left. My arms were now helping me to keep balance.
"Jump you fucker, jump!" I commanded under my breath. It wouldn't work.
I would have to let myself simply drop then, I decided.
"GET THE FUCK DOWN, NOW!"
I nearly fell off the bridge at those words. They'd shocked me so much that now both of my feet were fixed firmly onto the railing again.
I turned my head to my left, the direction I'd come from. Greg was standing there, his feet apart in a determined stance, his fists clenched, his face red. I didn't believe this. Greg, Stevie's boyfriend.
No, this was freaking impossible! I couldn't even fucking die without everything turning ridiculous! I nearly laughed. I don't know why. This was just getting too much for me.
"Can't you see I'm busy? Go away!" I shouted at him.
"Get down now!" he barked at me again.
"What's it to you if I jump?" I yelled.
"You know what? Get down so I can kick your fucking ass! I promise you, after I'm done with you, I'll let you do whatever you think you have to."
"If you think that was good advertisement to get me off here, you're a fuckhead!"
"GET DOWN!" he snapped.
My laughing mood had left me. My hatred and anger were gone. All I felt was this bout of sudden sadness rising up from my stomach, making everything inside clench together.
"Why don't you leave me alone? Please!" I started to sob. "Please. Just leave me alone please go away I can't"
I was cowering down now, hugging my knees. There was nothing I could do. He was coming closer behind me, and sobbing, whining, screaming I let myself drop off the railing, right into his arms. He fell backwards. I landed in his lap.
Hot tears fell on my neck, and they weren't mine. He started shouting at me, beating at my stooped back again and again until the power left him. Then everything was peaceful around us, and we were nothing more than a shivering sniffling mass intertwined on the stony ground of a little bridge.