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Tales told - a.k.a free reads > YA LGBT 1st Birthday...Our Collected Stories Thus Far!

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message 1: by Sammy Goode (new)

Sammy Goode | 5380 comments Over the past several months, members have given us one memorable story after another written in response to a specific picture prompt. These stories, along with a special Valentine's written prompt are being showcased here in this anniversary thread.

While I know that any number of these stories might prompt a response from you, we are asking you to refrain from leaving any comments. In fact, once our own Shaz posts all the stories, the thread will be closed to all comments. Instead, consider this your own anthology of sorts--our year at a glance in story form. We hope you enjoy this walk through our past and that it will provide inspiration for you to write your own piece of the story in the future! Enjoy!


message 2: by Sammy Goode (new)

Sammy Goode | 5380 comments **


message 3: by Shaz (new)

Shaz OCTOBER 2011




message 4: by Shaz (last edited Jun 13, 2012 03:47AM) (new)

Shaz

SWEETNESS

Hey. My name’s Johnny, and I’m sixteen. See those two boys over there? Doesn’t that just make you gag? No, shut the frick up! I don’t mean that way! What are you, some kind of hater or something? Jeeze! I mean, look at them. That picture is so fricken sweet. It’s so gooey and sweet like. Just like when you’re sucking hard on the bottle of Hungry Jack syrup, and your cheeks are all swollen like a squirrel, and your little brother is playing with his Froot Loops. And little bro, I’ll call him Loopy because he’s too young to be talking about him to strangers and all, but Loopy doesn’t like milk in his Loops. So he’s all eating his Loops dry, and he’s all bored and all. And he’s got this catapult thing he made up with his spoon on the edge of his cereal bowl, and he’s launching the blue Loops. He doesn’t like the blue Loops. Don’t ask me why he has that hang-up. Who knows? But anyway, he’s launching the blue Loops at Spike our miniature, long-haired Chihuahua. And Spike is like this super high-jumper dog. Man, let me tell you, he could like win the Olympics or something. But anyway, like I was saying, Loopy is launching these dry blue Loops at Spike, and my cheeks are all full of that thick sweet Hungry Jack syrup while I swirl my tongue all around in the gooeyness trying to absorb all that good sweetness and all, when I get this wicked idea. I know Loopy hates milk on his cereal, so guess what I do? Yep, I poured some milk in his bowl. Only Loopy doesn’t notice because he’s all caught up in launching blue Loops at Super Chi. And of course by this time Loopy already ate all his other rainbow colors, and then when Loopy reloads, without looking at his bowl because he knows there are only blue Loops left, he catches a spoonful of milk and launches automatically. And in walks Dad through the door right as the splash of milk goes flying at him and splatters his papers that he just printed up for work. I don’t even know why he goes to work. What’s that about? Grownups are so weird. Well, anyway, I pop out laughing so hard, and all that thick syrup goes flying all over the table and all. And then some of the sweetness goes down the wrong hole, and I start gagging and all. Well, that’s how I feel looking at B.B. and Ven right now. Like it’s so fricken sweet I could gag.

Well, anyway, me an B.B. have been friends since the first grade. He lives on the next block from me, and we were always tight. We’ve always been on the soccer team since, like, forever. And we were always together, like always, dude. And we started sleeping over at each other’s house way back when. When I’d sleep at his house, I’d sleep on the floor on a sleeping bag right next to his bed. And when he’d sleep over at my house, he’d sleep on a sleeping bag right next to my bed. You see, me and Loopy have a bunk bed. And Loopy always had the bottom bunk because he was younger than me and all. You know, because it’s like too high for a little kid to get up and down the top bunk or some crap like that that grownups like to say. You know grownups. They’re always trying to make up these rules that we have to live by. Whatever! When I grow up, I’m not gonna go around making all kinds of rules for kids just to like show them who’s boss or something.

But, anyway, when me and B.B. were like thirteen, then Loopy was eight, I made Loopy take the top bunk. Momma didn’t say nothing at the time. She just shrugged her shoulders. And Loopy was just all giddy and all. He felt like he was now a grownup or something. Poor kid. He’s got like six more years of the parental units making up all kinds of rules on the spot whenever they feel like it. Like why can’t there be a rule book somewhere where a kid can look up the rules to see if parents are like way out of line or something. Whatever!

Well, anyway, one night when we were like fourteen, and B.B. was right next to me on the floor on his sleeping bag, I was feeling so weird like. I just kept staring at his mouth. I mean, look at him. Look at that mouth. It’s so sexy. You just wanna press your lips up against them and kiss and never stop. Well, anyway, after staring at that mouth for about an hour, my body just kinda like took over. I flipped myself off my bed and landed on his sleeping bag with my face just like an inch from his. His eyes were all like bug eyes, staring up at me in shock. And the next thing I knew, I leaned down and kissed him. I thought my heart was gonna pop or something; it was beating so fast. He didn’t move, though. I think he was in shock. For real. So after a couple seconds, I started to lift my head back up. But guess what B.B. did? As I lifted my head, he lifted his face and kept kissing me. Well, then I just lost it, like. Man, I just pushed his face down with my lips, and we just kept kissing, like for hours, dude.

And from then on, when I slept at B.B.’s house, we would lock the door, because B.B. has his own room, and we would get nekid and sleep together in his bed all night long. And when he would sleep at my house, I would lie down in my bed with B.B. lying down on his sleeping bag next to me, and we would just hold hands in the dark until I thought Loopy had fallen asleep in his upper bunk. Then B.B. would get up and climb into my bed with me.

Well, one night, we were all doing it and all, trying to be all quiet, when I happened to glance up to see Loopy’s head looking down at us. He just smiled at me and pulled his head back up into his own bunk. Next morning he just said to me, ‘Can I be your best man at your wedding?’ I swear to God that’s what he said. He’s sure a cool dude for such a little kid.

Well, about six months ago, I woke up in B.B.’s bed next to B.B., and I said the most stupidest thing I ever said in my life. I said, ‘B.B. I don’t want to be gay anymore. I’m gonna be straight from now on. I’m tired of hiding all the time. We can’t hold hands in the hall at school like the straight kids can. So I’m gonna go straight, now.’

And he looked at me like I was crazy or something. He didn’t say anything. That’s the thing with B.B.; he’s very quiet. He almost never talks. Just when he has something important to say. He says everything best when he says nothing at all. Just like that song says. I don’t usually like girl singers. I like dude singers. Like the ones that are all rough singers, and like all soulful, I think they say. Like, I like that dude who sings for Lifehouse. He’s just all real soulful, like. But anyway, B.B. just stared at me and started crying. Not all loud sobbing like a little kid does, but just that silent cry. Like when the tears are all running down the face, and the mouth is all like bent out of shape and all. But I had thought about it a long time, and I just kissed him on the lips one more time and turned around, put my clothes on, and walked out the door.

I would talk to him on the phone when he would call. But when he’d ask to come over to my house, I always made up some kind of lame excuse. So for the last six months we haven’t talked very much. And I’ve been fricken miserable. I keep trying to like girls but it just doesn’t work. I snuck a Playboy magazine out from a friend’s closet and brought it home. But every time I look at the magazine, my little Johnny doesn’t cooperate. Then I start thinking about B.B., about kissing him, about doing it with him. And what do you know, little Johnny is all at full attention.

And then about four months ago, he fell in love with Steven. We all call him Ven. Ven is a year younger than us; he’s fifteen. And he’s on our soccer team. He is very pretty, too. I mean, just look at him. And with that bushy, bushy black hair he is so irresistible. Well, anyway, it happened like this. One afternoon we were like practicing soccer out on the field. B.B. had his shirt off on account of he was on the ‘skins’ team. And we were all goofing off and all. And then Ven came from behind B.B. and grabbed the ball out of his hand and started running with it. Well, B.B. tore off after him. But Ven was teasing him and running this way and that and telling B.B. that he runs like a girl and all. Then Ven slipped on account of the grass was wet cause it had been raining earlier, and B.B. fell right on him. Ven was lying down on his back, and B.B. was lying right on top of him, face to face. They were all laughing up a storm, and what do you know but Ven stole my move. He just reached up and kissed B.B. right on the mouth. And B.B. was all shocked again just like he was when I kissed him that first time when we were fourteen. And then all of a sudden, B.B. just pushed Ven down with his lips and started kissing him like mad.

You should have heard all the ruckus that the team was making. Half the team was all hollering ‘whoo hoo,’ and ‘yeah,’ and stuff like that. And then the other half of the team was all disgusted like and hollering all kinds of mean hater words and all. But then the coach came out there and told the haters to shut the frick up because those were his two best players out there kissing, and he doesn’t give a damn if they like each other like that because he just wants to win soccer games.

Well, the haters all kinda looked at him funny like. But then they all started talking among themselves. And then they all agreed that that was all that mattered. So they all went up to B.B. and Ven and like high-fived with them and all.

And since then, B.B. and Ven are always together. I mean always. So tight. Like popcorn and butter. Like water and the ocean. Like trees and leaves. Not like in the fall, though, when the leaves all fall down. Why do the leaves fall, anyway? What’s up with that? Why don’t they just hang in there? And another thing, when those leaves fall, why do I have to rake them up? Why can’t they just stay there where they fall? Like as if I don’t have enough chores to do. And of course the parental units make up another rule—Johnny, go rake up the leaves before you go out!

Well, anyway, get a load of this. They are always holding hands in the halls at school. Can you believe it? I broke up with B.B. because I wanted to be with someone that I can hold hands with in public, and stupid me thought it had to be a girl. And now Ven gets to hold B.B.’s hand in public. What a stupid idiot I was.

So now here I am in the library just trying to do my research project on the Civil War, and there are those two cuties just being all lovey-dovey. Look at that! There’s Ven just sneaking around B.B.’s face planting kisses on that gorgeous B.B. who used to be mine. Ven’s always doing that. Every time I see them, Ven is plastering his boy with kisses. It’s so sweet it can make you gag.
Well, you know what? I’m not gonna do nothing to try to break them up. Because as much as I still love B.B., I really love it when two people make a couple. I think it’s so sweet. I won’t never do nothing to break up any couple, straight or gay. But I want to be friends with my B.B.. And Ven. So I think I’ll just pick up my books and walk on over there and ask B.B. if he wants to work together with me on our research project. If I can’t have him as my boyfriend, I can sure have him as my friend friend. And I get two for one. Pretty good deal.

Sometimes sweet doesn’t have to be in the form of kissing type love. I think it can be pretty sweet to be friends with two other guys just like yourself. Yeah, sweet. And this time I won’t be gagging on the sweetness.

All rights reserved.
This story is dedicated with love to my friends who happen to be gifted with ADHD. For those of us who understand you, it makes us love you all the more. And you know who you are.



message 5: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

UNTITLED
by Byron

Alex was just sitting at the cafe after school, head hanging down looking upset. I was the one who put that look there. I made him look like that. I was the one who told him that he was a ‘dip shit, irresponsible moron, for crying out loud, what were you thinking?’ Really what could I say Alex had jeopardised his school record.

He’s so beautiful with those plump lips of ruby. His dark chocolate brown eyes that matched his milk chocolate hair. Just thinking about him causes a sigh to escape from me! But it causes me to regret making him sad. I know that he is ‘my guy’.

I sidled up to him whispered in his ear how - “Throwing the cricket ball at Tony’s ball’s after he punched me in the guts, is still the sweetest thing anyone has ever done, and will ever do for me”. I then proceeded to kiss the smile back on his face that I love.


message 6: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

UNTITLED
by Kaje

He's always so serious, you know? I mean, I get that a high-school junior has to study and make the grades. Junior year is what the colleges look at. And Drew's family isn't rich. He's scrambling for scholarship money. But still...an occasional smile wouldn't kill him.

He calls me a clown and a brat. In private, he likes that though. Like when we're cuddled up on his couch, you know - after, and his mom's not home yet. Sometimes the feeling gets almost too intense. Like he's part of me and I'm part of him. And yet in a little while we know we have to separate and act like there's nothing there. He likes it then when I act like a fool and tell dumb jokes or snort soda up my nose. It lets us break apart.

But in school, not so much. Sometimes he even acts like I embarrass him, and that stings a little.

Not that we see each other that often in school. He's a year ahead of me, so we don't share classes. And the cafeteria? Let me tell you, that is sooo not the place to be friendly. Too many guys horsing around, with that rough playfulness that becomes just plain roughness all too easily. He keeps his distance there.

But in the library, sometimes, we find a secret space – a moment of time when there is no one around , and we can share at least a glance. Maybe a touch, if we dare. A brush of my hip against his shoulder as I go past his chair to get a book off the shelf. A foot climbing my calf under the table, as he stares so studiously down at his math book. So serious.

Today, the librarian gets called out of the room to deal with some catastrophe in the hallway. I lean across the table. “What's a library-related disaster? Think someone puked on one of her precious books?”

All I get is a little frown, and a small headshake of the “Don't be a dork” variety.

I move a little closer. “A rare book-eating baboon? A famous author with a vendetta over being shelved wrong?”

Drew heaves a long-suffering sigh and lifts his book a little, pointedly.

Someone comes in and sits at the table behind me. I freeze for a moment, thinking I'd better cool it. But then I see it's Mandy. She's my best friend and one of the only people who knows about us. She gives me a wink and pulls out her cell phone. Which means the librarian must be busy or Mandy wouldn't take the risk.

I whisper to Drew. “Bet I can make you smile in ten seconds or less.”

He snorts. “Your jokes are beyond lame.”

“Maybe. But this isn't.”

I lean in and brush my mouth against his ear. He stares down at his book but I see the corner of his mouth twitch just a little. So I move my lips to his, bending over him, awkward around the table, just the crooked ghost of a real kiss. And my Drew smiles. Score.


message 7: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

UNTITLED
by Sammy

Well, this is probably more of a blurb than a story--but how could I resist that fabulous picture!

David Mitchum hated school. His entire junior year had morphed into an exhausting game of hide and seek. As the semester wore on, it had gotten more and more difficult to hide his love for Drew from… well from everyone. Why was he so afraid of what people would say? Why couldn’t he be brave like Drew? Drew. Even thinking the name caused his heart to flutter and his breath to hitch in his chest. Beautiful Drew. David closed his eyes for just a moment and felt the image of his lover drift into his mind. As if going over a checklist, David drew forth the memory of that face. Those deep brown eyes that alternately flashed with laughter and burned with passion. Smooth, rosy cheeks that had yet to be kissed by the blade of a razor. That mop of curly brown hair that seemed to catch fire at its tips when the sunlight caught it just right. And that mouth—that perfect, beautiful mouth… David trembled as the memory of their last kiss filled his mind.

Slowly, as if coming out of a deep trance, awareness began to filter in to David’s brain. Why had the cafeteria gotten so quiet? Oh hell, had he missed the start bell for next period? C’mon Mitchum, open your eyes and get your but in gear before you get another detention. Wait—what the…? Who was kissing his cheek? Slowly David’s eyes drifted open. No! It can’t be. As if on cue, Drew’s scent filled his senses. David felt his lips begin to curve into a smile. Drew Thomas was kissing his cheek. Right there in the cafeteria of Woodmont High. Drew was kissing HIM! Realization dawned as David began to understand what this little kiss meant. No more hiding. No more games. Now the world would know—now they would see. David felt his smile stretch and grow, as laughter bubbled up inside him. Then the world ceased to be as Drew swept in for a kiss.

David Mitchum hated school…no more.


message 8: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

"SPEECHLESS"
by BJ

Glancing down at the half eaten salad on the grubby cafeteria table, I absently toy with a stray piece of lettuce and just watch as the cacophonous world passes me by. I’ve always loved to watch - and before you get any bad ideas, no I’m not one of those greasy, middle aged history teachers that unabashedly drools at the first sight of cleavage (they’re at the next table over). The name’s Jake Maddox and not only am I a senior here at Hillcrest High, I’ve never really had any interest in cleavage. Not that I haven’t tried of course, I mean, I think most guys when they figure out they’re gay in highschool don’t rebel against the institution, they rebel against themselves. Against whatever it is inside them that makes them different. I may not be a “normal” kid, but after years of people watching, I have learned a thing or two, and having people know I’m gay would only undo the years of hard work it’s taken for me to blend into the scenery.

Initially, I didn’t ask to become invisible… I was excited for a new start at a new school… Somewhere I could forget the past and focus on building myself a future. But after the first couple of days, the novelty of “the boy who doesn’t talk” wore off, and I was seen for what I really was – a freak. And I’m okay with that, because in my books I’d rather be left alone and ignored than abused day in and day out. I wanted to interact with them, I really did - and if I’m honest with myself, I still do… but letting people in is dangerous, and that’s a risk I can’t afford to take again. So here I sit, left to my own devices with the cheap plastic seats and table top stained with god knows what - my only company, the dark storm cloud intent on pissing on my parade… great.

There’s something odd about today though. Usually, I just sit up the back, with my perfect view of the cafeteria and observe the same things day in and day out. I expect to see Cindy and Ryan (our school’s power couple so affectionately dubbed “cyrin”) making out at the centre table; usually you would find Steph and the rest of the cheerleaders hanging off of Brett’s every word (would it surprise you that he’s the quarterback? Didn’t think so); and although not many people seem to notice him, Ethan, the class clown, sits with his friends looking utterly miserable.

Just between you and me – Ethan’s amazing… Not just his curly, chestnut brown hair, or his penetrating deep brown eyes - he’s a genuinely nice guy… It’s at lunches, when I have the time to watch him out of the classroom that I can really see him. Except for now that is – because he’s not there. Thoughts race through my mind like headless chickens: Is he sick? Is he wagging? What if he’s realised I keep an eye on him? What if something’s happened to him? A morbid thought, I know, but It’s just now that I’ve come to realise how dependent I’ve become on seeing him there every day, when I feel like walking over to see what’s wrong… Although we’ve never really had a conversation, I think I’d be devastated if I couldn’t at least see him…

I freeze. There’s really something wrong. Warm breath greets the nape of my neck and I instinctively lash out at whatever it is. My elbow connects with soft flesh and a noise of protest accompanies the sharp jab. Turning around I’m horrified to see Ethan standing there holding his stomach, with a sheepish look on his face along with a crimson blush. He looks adorable. I must look white as a ghost – omg, I just attacked possibly the only guy in this godforsaken hole that I actually like… I’m lost for words. What a surprise. So my mouth just kind of hangs there, complete with little hitching motions that I’m sure make me look like one of the three stooges. I sit back down and continue to play with the lettuce – only now it’s more like tearing than toying.

To my surprise, and intense relief, Ethan sits down on my left. An uncomfortable, awkwardly long silence prevails. What is he doing here? He doesn’t look so despondent… I mean, it couldn’t be me, and it couldn’t be because I just socked him one in the gut - unless he likes it rough. Wow. I did not just think that. Look to the front. Breathe. Breathe. That’s right, deep breaths Jake… I can feel my heart racing in my chest and hear the blood pumping through my ears. Calm thoughts.

Through the immense noise of the cafeteria, a voice whispers uncertainly in my ear “Hi… I don’t know if you know me, but I’m Ethan. We took calculus together a couple of years ago” he remembers that? “I see you sitting alone over here all the time” he continues “but I’ve never really had the courage to come over and say hi…” by now all I can register is him. There is no cafeteria, and his soft whispers caress my cheek so gently it’s painful. I slowly turn my head to face him and utter the first words I’ve spoken within these walls “hello.” A smile instantly spreads across his face and transforms his features from beautiful to stunning… “I know who you are, I see you here every day and I’ve wanted so badly to talk to you” by now, I couldn’t care less if I’m giving too much of myself away – I can tell he’s worth it. “I’ve always wanted to ask so badly why you’re so confident in classes, but at lunches, you transform into someone completely different… “I trail off scared that I’ve crossed the line and offended him, but he just continues to stare at me. I could get lost in the depths of those eyes, or burnt under the intensity of his stare.

Turning to face forward again, I promise myself I won’t bother him with silly questions. A pressure builds in my chest and extends its reach to the base of my throat... I can feel the rejection coming, but I can already tell Ethan isn’t angry – not like the last guy I spoke to. He isn’t psychopathic… not like the guy who started all this – the big guy, with his big friends and a strong grip on my throat.

A hand reaches its way around the back of my neck and I tense for the imminent blow, but I’m truly left speechless when Ethan leans in, bridging the gap between us and plants his soft, red lips against mine. I’m making little sounds. Damn. Did I just moan? It’s okay I tell myself, it’s so packed in here that no-one will notice us. All I can hear is the sounds of lips upon wet lips and the cute little noises Ethan’s making and the way they sound merged with mine. We break apart and stare at each other.

I feel like he's speaking right into my soul as he states "the guy I've liked for so long has been all alone, and for so long I could have changed that... I could have been there. That's why I'm a different person. I've wanted you for so long, but I've never had the courage to do anything about it." By now I'm on the brink of tears and I feel like nothing can come between us.

Silence. No, wait... pretty sure I just heard a cough and maybe a gasp or two.... ah crap.

We both look around the room as astonished faces greet us. Embarrassed, the blush returns to Ethan’s cheeks as he grabs my hand, leading me out of the lunch room. Where we’re headed I have no idea, but I know that one moment has just changed my life for the better – I’m finally getting to build that future.

Behind us, silence still reigns, but as we reach the exits, a deafening applause echoes throughout the empty halls towards us… and the tears start rolling.


message 9: by Shaz (last edited Jun 10, 2012 09:40PM) (new)

Shaz

UNTITLED
by Sammy

With my love and respect. I'm also posting it over on the Spirit day thread.

Rick sat, hunched over his dog-eared copy of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, under the glaring yellow lights of the cafeteria. He smiled, just a bit, remembering again the night before, studying with Jaime, in his room, there on his bed. In an instant he was back, lying across his bed, his head resting lightly on Jaime’s shoulder. Jaime. Rick groaned softly as he recalled that sweet moment. Jaime so soft and warm against his side, reading out loud the homework assignment to him. Rick closed his eyes for just a moment—once more hearing that voice falling around him like a light summer breeze…his boyfriend’s magical voice.

“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Rick is the sun.

“Hey. It does not say that— give me that, you jerk!”

I tried to grab the book from him. But Jaime is fast, like quicksilver, and he dodges my hand just in time. I watch, mesmerized as he shakes those soft brown curls out of his eyes and laughs softly.

“What do you mean? Of course it says that! And who are you calling a jerk, nerdy boy?”

I look at him skeptically, trying to look tough and stern.

“We’re supposed to be reading “Shakespeare’s version of Romeo and Juliet—not Jaime Swenson’s version—now be serious! We have a quiz on this tomorrow!

“Oh like the great Rick Thomas would ever fail a quiz. C’mon you know you’ve read this thing like 10 times already!”

I grinned sheepishly and ducked my head, mumbling, “3 times, you jerk!”

Jaime crowed in delight at my obvious shame!

You are such a twit—a big fat soft-hearted twit.”

I tried to look wounded. Then Jaime leaned in and whispered, “but you’re my soft hearted twit and I wouldn’t trade you for anything.”

I turned my head and went in for a kiss. So soft, so sweet—I was so in love. Jaime broke off to draw in a deep breath and smiled again. “Homework, first dude—smoochin later.” I darted in for one more quick peck and then, leaning my head against my hand, sighed and said, “Yeah. You’re right. Keep going, huh?”

Jaime licked his lips; his eye heavy with want, with need, cleared his throat and started again, never taking his eyes away from mine.

“See, how he leans his cheek upon his hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!”

The book slipped from his hand as he reached toward me with his hand. I closed my eyes and felt that soft caress…

“Rick—helloooo! Earth to Rick. Are you in there? “ I jumped, opening my eyes, ripped from my memories back into Henley High School cafeteria and the freckled face of Joanie Shenk.

“Jesus, you scared me!” Joanie laughed and mussed my hair as she plopped down beside me.

“Well, loverboy, if you weren’t so busy dreaming about your hot boyfriend maybe you would have heard me the first 6 times I said your name!

I started to say that I wasn’t doing anything of the sort then I just shrugged my shoulders and smiled. After all this was Joanie, my best girl—there was no way I could ever hide anything from her. We had grown up together Joanie and me. My Dad used to joke that we were born attached at the hip. To which, Joanie always replied, “Yuck—I am so not sticking these fine hips to any skinny-assed gay boy—no thank you!” Of course she always said that AFTER Dad was out of earshot. While he was there, she always smiled and said, “Oh, Mr. Thomas, that’s so sweet of you to say!” Yeah—that Joanie, she knew how to lay it on—and thick too! She started to pull some flyers out of her bottomless messenger bag that hung from her shoulder.

“So, did you get the blue tape from Mr. Davis?”

“Huh—the blue what?”

“The blue tape—you know the junk we’re allowed to use when we want to tape stuff on the walls in the cafeteria?”

“Oh, that blue tape…uhm, sorry?” I said it with all the fake remorse I could muster—even gave her that lost puppy look that usually works like a charm, but I should have known better. First, she slapped me on the side of the heard; then she sighed and looked disgusted, saying:

“One thing! I ask you to do one thing so that we can get these Spirit day flyers up and what do you do?? Sit here, drooling over Jaime—you are truly pathetic. Anyone would think you were not about to give an anti-bullying speech in front of 1200 high school kids. (In her worst yet imitation of a sports announcer) Ladies and Gentleman, introducing your senior class president Rick, I am so in love with Jaime, I forgot to put up the flyers Thomas! Oh how you gay boys try a straight girl’s patience!”

“I’m sorry Joans—I really meant to stop by Mr. Davis’ class and get it but I had to meet Jaime and I was running late…” My voice trailed off as I watched my best girl smile and reach out to pat my cheek.

“It’s okay big guy, I forgive you. That Jaime, he’s something special, huh?”

I swallowed hard, nodding my head, “yeah—real special Joans—uhm, so special that I think I, uhm, might actually be falling in…” I didn’t get any further; Joanie squealed and pushed in to plant a big kiss on my cheek. Breathlessly she said, “Oh Ricky, I’m so happy for you guys!”

I smile. That, that right there is why I love Joan Frances Donohue—why she will always be my best girl!

“Yeah, Joanie? “ I asked, dipping my head embarrassed and yet secretly thrilled with her reaction.

She leaned in and kissed my cheek again and said, “yeah, really glad—cause I love you guys –and, besides,” she leaned back and I could see the veil glint in her emerald green eyes, I get to hear about all the hot gay sex—bonus!”

My eyes shot wide and I stammered, “Wait a minute I never told you anything about Jaime and me having sex!”

She leaned in and said, “GOTCHA!” And with a wave of her fingers and one last evil chuckle, she swept away as I watched and then groaned out loud. How did I keep falling for that crap—I thought to myself? She truly is an evil genius!

I smile and looked down at the book in my hands again. Romeo and Juliet. I felt rather than saw his presence at my left shoulder. He leaned in gently and as his lips brushed my cheek, he whispered: “Shakespeare, dude, is he the man for you?”

As I turned to tell him that he had it wrong—that HE was the man for me, his lips brushed against mine and like a flash I was back in my bedroom, laying on my bed, and my love was reading softly:

“Love goes toward love, as schoolboys from their books,
But love from love, toward school with heavy looks.

(A special thanks to William Shakespeare for the use of his words and his forgiveness for my editing of the same! And, to the boys on this site—this one is dedicated to you, in honor of Spirit Day!)


message 10: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

UNTITLED
by Patricia

Warm lips pressed against my cheek. For a moment, when my eyes instinctively drifted shut, I melted. The sounds of the cafeteria faded into the thump, thump of my heart, and the weight and stress of the biology test next period disappeared as I was lifted away. All that remained were the lips against my skin and the person those lips belonged to. I knew without that person, I would drift away to be lost forever.

A loud crash broke through the serene moment and I jerked away, wiping the moisture from my cheek. “Zack, don’t.”

Zack plopped himself next to me, propping his chin in his palm. “What? I can’t give my boyfriend a little peck?”

I gave my cheek another swipe. “Yeah, just not in front of an audience.”

Zack rolled his eyes, motioning to our classmates, most notably, Toby and Amanda who, at lunchtime, melded into one person, their arms and lips locked. “Toby and Amanda have no problem with an audience.”

“We’re not Toby and Amanda,” I retorted.

Another eye roll. “Cam…”

“I really hate it when you call me Cam. Why can’t you just say Cameron?”

Zack sighed. He knew I knew why he liked to call me Cam. He thought it sounded sexy. Plus, no one else called me Cam, and he had this ridiculous idea that as my boyfriend, he needed a nickname for me. I supposed it was better than ‘honey cakes’ like Toby called Amanda.

“I don’t want to fight with you again,” he said softly.

“Then why do you do stuff like that?” I asked. “You know people will stare.”

“No one is staring,” Zack replied. “No one really stared when we came out three months ago. Hell, no one even called us names. You should be grateful that in a small town like this that no one batted an eye.”

“Your dad did.”

The last bit of amusement in Zack’s eyes melted into irritation. “Cameron,” he emphasized my full name. “Why do you sabotage our relationship?”

“I don’t–”

“You do,” he interrupted. “It’s like you're still hiding in the closet, afraid to come out and be yourself. You’re waiting for someone to grab a torch and pitchfork and chase us out. That’s not going to happen. So my dad called us queers. He’s a sour old man who is only happy when he’s making everyone else miserable and I could care less about him.” The chair scraped the floor as he pushed to his feet to glare down at me. “I care about you, but I refuse to go back in the closet and deny who I am. I won’t shy from showing I care either.” He paused, his anger faltering, wiped away by sadness. His next words were choked, forced out. “I can’t be with someone who refuses to understand that.”

I felt punched in the gut as he walked away, unable to speak or call out to him. The world around me shattered, plunging me into cold blackness. It gripped me like a vice. Hidden deep within the darkness, a voice whispered.

“He doesn’t understand. People do stare, all the time. They stare and whisper, discussing how abnormal it is for two boys to be attracted to each other. Even now they are staring, gawking at the freak show before them.”

I gulped, fighting the bone chilling cold and the truth. The blackness chuckled, knowing I couldn’t argue.

“That’s not true.”

I jerked against the blackness, shocked by Zack’s voice. He stood like a beacon of light among the dark. His face was in shadow, but I could feel him staring at me, his gaze steady.

“How can you be sure?” I whispered.

Zack swept his arm through the darkness. It swirled and opened up to show the biology room. Zack sat at his desk, a few of our friends, Mandy, CJ and Kim, gathered around him. He leaned his head against the desk, shoulders shaking. They leaned over him, their faces sympathetic. Kim’s boyfriend, John, sauntered in with a few of his basketball teammates. They noticed Kim, CJ and Mandy around Zack. John wandered over, his words inaudible. Kim’s words were inaudible as well – the blackness wouldn’t allow sound. But something she said changed John’s face; he gave Zack a sympathetic pat on the back and silent words. His teammates behind him seemed to agree. Zack smiled in appreciation.

“See?” Zack asked me.

“But how?” I started.

Zach shrugged. “Just showing you what you know deep down.” He nodded at the blackness around them. It was fading, the light around Zack growing brighter and washing it away. But he was disappearing as well.

“Wait!” I cried, struggling to move, but still feeling like I was stuck in glue.

“I’m not the one you need to run after,” Zack laughed as he disappeared.

I bolted to my feet, biology book abandoned as I raced out of the cafeteria. I tore down the hallways, barely dodging people as I ran. Outside of the biology room, I ground to a halt.

Zack sat at his desk, surrounded by Mandy, CJ and Kim. John and his teammates were there as well, exactly like I saw. They fell silent when they noticed me; Mandy, CJ and Kim giving me dirty looks. But they backed away, letting me approach Zack. He lifted his head, giving me a sad but brief look. I hesitated, not sure how to show him what I had seen in the darkness, the light I saw.

Do what feels right, a voice whispered in my ear.

I took a deep breath, stepping up to Zack. He didn’t move, eyes locked on the blackboard. The bleak look in his eyes tore at me, only I could wipe it away. I leaned down, grazing my lips on his ear, lingering on his cheek. Then I went one step farther than he ever did, finding his lips. He smiled briefly before kissing back.


message 11: by Shaz (new)

Shaz NOVEMBER 2011




message 12: by Shaz (last edited Jun 10, 2012 09:46PM) (new)

Shaz

THE BOYFRIEND
by Sammy

Peter slammed his locker door shut and hurried down the hall toward French class. Oh man, I can’t be late for this class again, Madame Kaje will have my as…” ooof! Peter bounced hard into the locker next to him. What in God’s name had he hit? “Hey, queer boy watch where you’re going”. “Please God no, just kill me now!” Peter looked up at the hulking presence of Randy Dimmick. Great, of all people he had to run into today it just had to be Randy “dinkwad” Dimmick, the biggest fullback Landon High School had ever had in its 47 year history! “Sorry Randy, my fault”, Peter muttered and tried to slip past Randy only to be stopped by the immovable wall that was Randy’s sidekicks, Jimmy Larson and Jeff Davis. Jimmy and Jeff…the freakin’ tweedledee and tweedledum of the infamous good squad. Pete tried to make himself as small as possible while attempting to squeeze through the sweaty mass of goon squad flesh; but escape was not in the game plan today. “Hey—you hard of hearing faggot—I said where do you think you’re going to—huh??” Peter felt Randy’s iron hard chest push against his back and two meat hooks that passed as hands slowly closed over his biceps, crushing them slowly and painfully. “Huh, bet that’s going to leave a bruise…” Held fast in Randy’s death grip, Peter had no choice but to answer the question. “Uhm, just going to French class Randy---now if you could just let me go I’ll get out of your wa…” Peter got no further before he was unceremoniously flipped around and body slammed into the locker. “Jeez, that is most definitely going to leave a bruise.” C’mon Peter think before they stuff you inside this thing again!”

Again…Peter recalled just a few short weeks before when Randy and his posse had caught him in the school locker room after PE. As usual he was running late and frantically trying to lace up his sneakers when they came in and decided to “say hello” to him. Saying hello included 2 bruised ribs, a split lip and an enjoyable stay inside a locker for over an hour until Coach Dimmick—Randy’s Dad, had left him out. Peter could still hear the vile laugh Coach had given when he found out his own son was responsible for bullying Peter. “Boys will be boys”, was what the Coach had said. God, how Peter hated that man. Suddenly broken out of his reverie by the foul odor of insanely bad breath, Peter realized that Randy’s face was just mere inches from his own and that Randy was actually saying something. “Aww is the little faggot worried he’s gonna be late for his faggoty French class?”

“No, but I am…Kramer, let’s go—one more late slip and you can kiss the Paris trip goodbye, so move it!” Cause I don’t want to sit next to Kowalski the entire plane ride; he smells like onions. Howdy Randy, you helping my friend Peter with his locker again?” That voice, that sweet wonderful thick like molasses on a fall day voice…Jack…Jake Newquist…my hero. “I ain’t helping no faggot with anything Newquist. I was just showin’ Petey here how to walk down the hallway all proper like—seems he has a nasty habit of running into people, dontcha Petey?” Peter nodded his head and silently prayed that Jake would just let this go and walk away. Please Jake, please just get me out of here and let’s go to class, please don’t make a big deal out of… “Really—you were showing him how to walk proper, were you?” Peter stood watching the hard line of Jake’s jaw, mesmerized by the twitching muscle that seemed to jump every time the boy ground his teeth together. “Yeah, that’s right I was helping him, right boys?” Randy smiled and elbowed Jimmy or was it Jeff in the stomach producing a slight “oof” sound to escape from the other boy’s lips. Jake stepped closer to Randy until their chests were almost touching. Peter couldn’t’ help but notice how tall Jake was, slender but well muscled, lean as a whippet but with an coiled strength that threatened to burst out at any moment. God, what a man…what an absolutely perfect man. Peter shook his head, trying to focus on what was unfolding before him. Jake now stood toe to toe with Randy. His voice, when he spoke, was barely above a whisper but nonetheless cut through the silence like a knife.

“Well, I got news for you Randy. You ever try to show my friend Peter here how to properly walk down the hall again you’re going to need a wheel chair to get around school afterwards.”

“Oh yeah, Newquist, how come?” Randy sneered.

“Cause I’m gonna break both your legs—you got that cowboy?”

The glint in Jake’s eyes dared Randy to talk back. Randy wisely took a step back and shook his head in disgust.

“Sure, Jake, sure, I hear ya. C’mon boys, let’s leave Jake and his little faggoty friend alone. “

As Randy turned to go, Jake’s arm snaked out and his fist grabbed Randy’s shirt, drawing him close. From a distance anyone would think that Jake was giving Randy a hug; but from Peter’s vantage point it was clear that Randy was held fast like a prisoner to Jake’s power and rage.

“What did you call my friend?”

“Uh, uh nothing, Jake, nothing”, Randy stammered, a look of fear surfacing in his beady eyes. Jake stared at Randy, his eyes like lasers, boring into Randy’s skull. “Oh God,” Peter thought, “he’s going to hit him…don’t do it Jake, don’t do it”. Just that moment, as if he had heard Peter’s silent plea, Jake relaxed his grip and smiled.

“Huh, I must have misunderstood. Now, why don’t you say goodbye to my friend Peter here and run along like a good little boy.”

Randy stiffened, his eyes tightening and his fist clenching, slowly he exhaled and mumbled, “goodbye…Peter.” Turning quickly with a gruff, “c’mon on guys” Randy stalked away down the school corridor. As Jake turned back to look at Peter, the class in session bell began to ring. Both boys, startled by the piercing whistle, turn and ran into the nearest door and breathlessly took their seats as 4th period Advanced French class began.

*****

The loudspeaker at the airport blared out cancellation after cancellation as Madame Kaje’s French students stood around trying to keep calm.

“I knew this was going to happen” Rach wailed. “The one time my old man coughs up the money for me to get out of this godforsaken dump and snow from the 3rd circle of hell dumps all its goodness on the airport!” Peter looked sympathetically at his friend Rach and then gave one more rapid glance around the airport. Where is Jake? If he doesn’t get here soon he’s going to miss the flight. That’s IF the plane ever leaves the airport. Peter gave one more, quick look toward the exit doors leading to the parking lot…no Jake. He sighed and slumped down into a seat, closing his eyes for just a minute. Immediately that shiny moment after French class came roaring into his head. He and Jake had barely made it into class on time. Peter’s heart was still beating furiously 45 minutes later but this time it had nothing to do with running. No, Peter’s poor heart was thrumming along due to a glance from those beautiful blue eyes...Jake’s eyes. Peter looked sideways at the boy as they walked down the hall. He’s so beautiful, Peter thought. Yes, Jake Newquist was every gay boy’s dream. Standing almost 6 foot with a soft cap of black curls framing a face that only Michelangelo could only have conjured up. Full, red lips pursed over even, white teeth and a rugged chin that had just a hint of the beginning of a 5 o’clock shadow. And those eyes...those amazing eyes. Long black lashes swept down over two pools of blue so deep and true that when Jake’s eyes fixed on Peter it caused his knees to quake. Jake turned and flashed Peter a huge grin.

“So, I’m guessing Randy and his goon squad won’t be bothering you in the too distant future, huh?”

Peter turned. A sad ghost of a smile flitted across his face.

“You shouldn’t have done that Jake. He’s gonna find a way to pay you back for humiliating him like that.”

“You let me worry about ole Dinkwad” Dimmick, Pete. I got it all under control.” Jake continued to stroll toward the cafeteria. Peter hurrying along, trying to keep up. They were a study in contrasts, these two friends. While both were brunettes, the similarities stopped there. Peter was reed thin, even more than Jake and small. He had Kelly green eyes and a small button nose nestled in a smoky brown complexion. His cheeks still smooth and untouched by a razor or hair of any kind for that matter. His was the face of an angel, the blush of youth still firmly planted on his swarthy cheeks. Whereas Jake was handsome, Peter was gorgeous, and completely unaware of the fact.

“Yeah, well, I just hope ole “Dinkwad” and his goons don’t prove you wrong.”

“Awe shucks, Petey, if I didn’t know any better I’d say you had feelings for me—worrying over me and all.” And with that, Jake threw his arm around Peter and steered him into the cafeteria, oblivious of the stares from classmates. Peter, on the other hand, felt each stare keenly. Why didn’t Jake realize that boys don’t go around with their arms around other boys—straight boys, that is? For unfortunately, much to Peter’s despair that’s exactly what Jake was—a straight boy whose best friend was gay and secretly in love with him.

“Flight 198 to Paris now boarding”.

The speaker broke into Peter’s reverie and caused him to jump. Behind him he heard Madame Kaje gently chastising another student. As Peter slowly turned around, he saw Jake standing in front of Madame, nodding his head, still covered in a fine layer of snow. “God, he takes my breath away”, Peter thought to himself. And, again, as if magically hearing Peter’s inner dialogue, Jake turned toward him and smiled. Peter felt his cheeks blush red and gently smiled in return. With a final nod to Madame Kaje, Jake strolled toward Peter. Throwing his arm around Peter once more, he whispered. “You ready to fly away with me Petey?” Peter swallowed the lump that had found its way into his throat and looked up at Jake. Slowly he nodded his head and, together, the boys turned toward the departure gate.

*****


message 13: by Shaz (new)

Shaz Paris was breathtaking. Peter strolled down the Champs Elysees arm in arm with Rach, while Jake came up behind talking quietly with Madame Kaje. The two of them, Madame and Jake had been thick as thieves ever since leaving Minneapolis. The rest of the class straggled behind as well. Peter could hear Byron laughing at something John had just said. He shook his head, knowing John it was about one of two thinks, science or porn. Everyone knew that one day John would be a world-renowned physician who admittedly would also be hooked on porn. How his parents never found out was beyond Peter. The guy practically lived online and if the stories were to be believed he was surfing porn most of the time. Peter shook his head and smiled. John, what a character! Byron, on the other hand, was bookish and quiet. Always reading, Byron was one of the smartest people Peter knew next to John. He fully expected that one day Byron would find some nice quiet boy and settle down—yes, Byron was gay, like Peter. In fact, it was Byron who Peter often confided in, especially about his feelings for Jake. Glancing behind he and Rach, Peter caught Byron’s eye for a moment. Byron flicked his head toward Jake, as if asking Peter if he knew what was going on with Jake and Madame Kaje. Peter shrugged his shoulders and turned back to Rach. His mind adrift, he began to remember his last conversation with Byron…

“Jake Newquist?” “Are you crazy Peter, he’s as straight as the proverbial arrow!”

“I know, I know and keep your voice down, somebody might here you.” Byron snorted, shaking his head in disgust.

“As if everyone can’t tell that you are head over heels in love with Jake Newquist, puhleese!”

Peter said nothing, just continued to walk down the corridor toward physics class. But Byron was undeterred, as he continued to talk rather loudly to Peter’s back. “Oh Peter, what am I going to do with you? Couldn’t you at least have picked someone who was bi?? I mean Jake, I love girls, Newquist, how sad.” Peter, frustrated and just a little sorry that he had told his friend his most solemn secret, whirled to face Byron and exploded in anger. “I didn’t choose to fall in love Byron, it just happened okay? Now either give me a little advice or just shut up.” Peter, stood, cheeks flaming red, breathing heavily, slightly wild-eye. Byron reached out and rubbed his arm. “It’s okay Buddy; hey, I’m sorry. I was just joking around.” Peter blew out a shuddering breath and whispered. “I’m sorry By. It’s just that…well, it’s just that…”

“It’s just that the feelings you have for Jake has you all tied up in knots, right?” Peter looked at Byron, nodding dumbly, unable to speak for fear he would burst into tears. “Hey, Pete, it’s gonna be okay. Jeez man, c’mere.” Byron enfolded Peter in his arms, stoking his back. Peter felt all the tension drain from his body. Here was a friend. Someone whom he didn’t have to hide from; someone who didn’t care if he was gay. Byron continued to comfort his friend while talking in a gentle whisper. “That’s it, let it all out Pete. It’s okay, I’ve got you. That’s right, old By has you.” But Peter didn’t want Byron to have him. No, Peter closed his eyes and imagined another set of arms around him and a deeper, honeyed voice whispering to him.

“That’s it Petey, I got you baby. I got you and I’m never gonna let you go”. Jake stroked his back, kissing his hair, his cheeks. “I love you Petey. Do you hear me? I love you. Look at me Petey…Peter…

Peter, look at me—can you hear me, Peter? Byron’s voice broke through Peter’s fantasy, bringing him crashing down to reality again.

“Yeah, I hear you. It’s okay By…I’m okay.” Slowly Peter extracted himself from Byron’s embrace and looked his friend in the eye.

“Thanks, BY…thanks for listening. I gotta go into the classroom—you better go before the bell sounds and you’re late.”

Quickly, without giving Byron a chance to say another word, Peter ducked into the classroom. It was the last time he would ever discuss his feelings for Jake Newquist to anyone.

Peter carried his duffel full of laundry over his shoulder as he headed to the all night Laundromat or the laverie as they called it here in Paris. He walked slowly enjoying the slight summer breeze that wafted its way off the Seine River. He heard rapid footsteps approaching and his heart lurched… Jake? A French woman swept by with a bag of groceries in one hand. Peter shook his head…not Jake. He wasn’t surprised, after all, they had argued earlier in the evening. Jake had kept asking Peter to go dancing with him and the guys, but Peter was determined not to take home 3 loads of dirty laundry. Not to mention he had run out of clean underwear 2 days ago. So, leaving behind an angry and sullen Jake, Peter had headed out for the evening. He had secretly hoped that Jake would come after him. Their argument had been fierce and somewhat strange. Jake had been upset, but Peter couldn’t figure out why. As the argument sound up, Jake made less and less sense. He kept going on and on about the encounter they had earlier in the day with a French boy. A university boy who had they had stopped to ask for directions. The boy’s name was Scylar.

“There—go ask that dude for directions.” Peter looked at the young man Jake was pointing at across the boulevard. They were hopelessly lost and needed to get back to the youth hostel before Madame Kaje sent out the police to find them. “Well, are you going?” Sheesh, impatient much! “Okay, okay I’m going.” Peter crossed the street with Jake in tow and stopped before the Frenchman. He was dressed all in black. His long black wavy hair hung down around his shoulders. His face was lean and hawk-like but startlingly beautiful all the same. Peter found himself staring at the man’ full, pouty lips and then heard himself gasping as he looked up into the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. Well, next to Jake’s…no one had eyes like Jake.

«Excusez-moi, nous sommes perdus et ont besoin de directions »

«Oui »

«Mon ami, je d une sont perdus. Nous devons trouver le Esquire hôtel »

"What are you saying to him Peter?"

"I’m telling him we are lost and need to find the Hotel Esquire—now be quiet so I can understand the directions!" Jake grumbled and moved a little closer to Peter. He didn’t like the looks of this guy. There was something almost feral, hungry about him.

«Ce qui est votre prince doux nom? »

"What’s he saying now?"

"He’s asking my name."

"Then why did he just call you a sweet prince? Hey buddy, just give us the directions okay?—he’s not your sweet anything, ya got that?"

"Jake, calm down. Let me talk with him, okay?" Peter turned back to Scylar who was now smiling indulgently at him and Jake. Before he had a chance to say anything else, Scylar spoke again.

« Voulez-vous coe maison avec moi ce soir? »

Peter gasped out loud---was this french dude coming on to him?? This was laughable. The boy who he wanted to invite him home was standing beside him grumbling about crazy frenchmen and stupid accents. Yet here a perfect stranger had just asked him to come home with him. You just had to love Paris!

«Uhm, Non, Je suis desole. »

"Why are you apologizing to him? Wait a minute, did he just say Maison—home—is this dude trying to hit on you? » Why I’m gonna…" Suddenly Jake launched himself at Scylar.

Scylar quickly stepped to the side, and stuck out his foot tripping Jake who then did a face plant right onto the sidewalk.

"Jake, are you okay?"

« Nous ne pouvons laisser ce chien bâtard derrière, dites que vous allez venir avec moi? »

"No I am not leaving this mongrel behind—now get away from him and me, right now or I’m calling the police!"

« La Police? »

"Yeah, the Police! Now please leave us alone!"

« Comme vous voulez doux prince, que vous le souhaitez. Bonne nuit. »

Jake rolled over, groaning. "Why does he keep calling you his sweet prince?"

“Shhhh, it’s okay, Jake. C’mon we’ll get help in this bakery over here, c’mon.”

Pete helped Jake up and they got directions from the baker inside the shop. The entire way back to the hotel, Jake barely spoke to him. Peter kept apologizing for what had happened but he could not seem to convince Jake that nothing Peter had done had provoked the French man’s behavior.

*****

Peter put the last load of laundry in the dryer and set it to spin. He climbed up on top of one of the dryers. There was nobody around and no other seats to sit on so he didn’t think anyone would mind if he just sat up here for a while. He was so tired. He missed Jake. The last thing he has wanted was to spend his last night in Paris arguing with his boyfr…

STOP THAT. He is NOT your boyfriend. He’s NEVER going to be your boyfr…

“Hey Petey.” Peter turned around, shocked to see Jake standing there by the side of the dryer unit. He drew in his legs, Indian style and peered down over the side. Jake looked like hell. His eyes were all puffy and red as if he had been crying.

“Hey, finally decided to talk to me again?”

“Aw, shit, I’m sorry Peter. I didn’t mean all that stuff I said. I was pissed off and you kept saying that the French guy had done nothing wrong and…”

“That’s because he hadn’t Jake. Scylar was just being friendly, that’s all. He was just…”

“Coming on to my boyfriend. That’s right Peter. He was flirting with MY boyfriend. I wanted to punch him in the nose I was so mad!” I wanted to…”

“WHAT did you say?”

“I said I wanted to punch him in the…”

Peter put his hand over Jake’s mouth to stop him. “JAKE, STOP! Now, look at me. What did you just call me?”

“mmur moymrend”

Peter wrenched away his hand. “WHAT?”

“My boyfriend, Petey. I called you my boyfriend.”

Peter blinked slowly. He stared at Jake, his mouth hanging open, unable to speak. Jake reached up a hand and caressed Peter’s cheek and softly said:

“That’s what you are, you know. You’re my boyfriend. Mine. No one else can have you Petey not ever. I’ve been trying to tell you for months. To work up the courage, cause I didn’t know if you felt the same way. But then that French guy, that Scylar he asked you to go home with him. I’ve wanted to ask you to go home with me forever Petey and I could never seem to find the right words or the right time. And, then he called you his sweet prince.” Jake leaned in and grabbed Peter’s face between both his hands. His eyes blazed with an intensity that was almost frightening to behold. “NO ONE calls you that but me. Do you hear me Peter? You’re MY SWEET PRINCE…MINE! No one else’s, do you understand? I love you, Petey, I love you.”

Peter nodded his head, unable to speak. His eyes filled with unshed tears.

“I love you, Petey, I love you. I don’t know what I’d do if lost you Petey. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you before I did this.”

Jake stood up on his tiptoes and leaned in toward Peter. The last thing Peter saw before Jake’s lips brushed against his were the loving eyes of his boyfriend…his boyfriend Jake.

...The Beginning...


message 14: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

UNTITLED
by Kaje

Jon shoved the crusty sheet into the washer and then quickly dropped an assortment of clean shorts and semi-clean shirts on top of it. Because just washing your sheets had several possible interpretations, and not one of them was good. He bumped the door shut with his hip and stared at the directions, trying to make his frazzled brain interpret the French.

Something about soap. Damn, he'd forgotten the soap. He'd been in such a rush to get out of his room, to wash the smell of Luc and sex and someone who wasn't Cole out of his bed that he was lucky he'd remembered his wallet. Oh, well, maybe if he set the temperature to hot, it would do the job without soap. He fumbled with the settings, and then pulled out coins. Two euros. The coins felt odd and unfamiliar. How much was that in dollars? He couldn't figure out if he was being gypped or not. Although really, given that this was probably the only laundromat open in Paris at two in the morning, it hardly mattered. He'd pay a lot more than that if he could just go back to this afternoon when the damned sheets were clean and he'd never met Luc.

He'd been so happy, sitting with Cole in the bar, people-watching. They'd each had a good German beer, legally too because over here you could drink before you were too old to appreciate it. He and Cole had made a few bets about the nationalities of the other international students who filled the bar.

Americans were easy. It was the perfect teeth and the attitude, that slightly cocky air that said they had the world by the balls and everyone else better look out. He'd laughed with Cole about it, even though secretly he thought that on Cole it looked good. On Cole, everything looked good. Dark hair and fair skin and that long lean body, and the air of mystery. Like some kind of pale Gypsy boy. Everyone took a second look at Cole for the pleasure of it.

And that girl had been no exception. He'd pegged her as German, but when she noticed their eyes on her she'd come over and said “Hi!” with a BBC British accent. Turned out her perfect blond hair and perfect big boobs and not quite perfect teeth were from London. And when she asked if these seats were taken, Cole said, “No.”

At first Jon had just sat there and seethed as Cole flirted with her. Seethed silently and invisibly of course. Because even though Cole was an equal opportunity horndog, Jon was just the buddy, the best friend, the one to come home with the stories to. Cole had no interest in Jon otherwise, wouldn't have even dreamed Jon could care. And it wasn't like it was anything new, watching Cole charm the pants off a girl.

Then Jon caught the amused eyes of the guy who had followed her over to their table. Now that guy was French, beyond doubt. And something in his resigned look as he glanced at the girl suggested he was the buddy and not the love interest either. But then when his eyes came back to Jon they lingered, just a little long and in all the right places. And Jon thought that perhaps this guy wasn't really upset about being stood up by a girl.

Luc had introduced himself, in perfect English with that amazing French accent. And Jon decided, damn it, if Cole can have fun, I can too.

It had been fun. Luc was smooth and funny, and the beers were good. Jon didn't even care when Cole dragged the girl off to the dance floor. He barely noticed when Cole pulled off his black jacket and began to really move, his hips and shoulders and the long line of his back sinuous under the dance floor lights, his head tossed back.

Luc had said something. Over the pounding beat, it didn't register with Jon what he had said yes to, until Luc took his hand and raised him up out of his seat.

The air outside the bar had been cooler and clean. For a moment, it was like a slap of reality. Jon hesitated. But then from inside he heard the girl laugh, loud enough to reach the street, and shout “Go, Cole.” And at the same moment, Luc's hand glided across the small of Jon's back and he said, “Do you have a place?”

It hadn't been until they were in his tiny room at the college, fumbling together in the dimness, that Jon realized how much he didn't want to be there. And by then Luc was half undressed, his blue shirt a silky pool on the floor. It seemed impolite to stop him.

They didn't do much. Luc was pretty drunk and hot, and a bit of fumbling and rubbing together was all it took for Luc to go over. Jon held him afterward, and noticed in some mix of surprise and self-disgust, that having a naked gorgeous Frenchman in his bed hadn't done half as much for him as watching Cole dance. God he was hopeless.

Luc was a nice guy, and once he stopped gasping, he was ready and eager to help Jon out. But Jon pleaded too much to drink and sent him on his way as fast as he could without being a total asshole. Luc would have kissed him goodbye, but Jon dodged that too and gave him a quick hug instead. Luc had looked at him with a crooked smile. “You're going to break your heart for that one.”

“Which one?”

“The pretty boy with the dark hair who danced with Mandy. He's got something, for sure, but that type will break your heart.”

“I don't know what you're talking about.”

Luc had ruffled Jon's curls in a maddeningly superior way. “You keep telling yourself that, mon ami. Well, if you get over him, I'm at that bar often. I'd love to really make it with you sometime...”

And then he'd left, and there Jon was with dirty sheets and his damned want for a guy who didn't even see him. Jon sighed, and leaned against the washer. He'd tried to go to bed and forget it. Tried to sleep off the fact that Cole was still out partying and Luc was right and Jon was some kind of pathetic loser. But the smell of his sheets had driven him up and dressed and headed for this place. He turned to stare in the window of the machine, watching his clothes tumble around in the sparse bursts of water these front loaders seemed to use. Then in the dark mirror-surface of the round window, he caught sight of a familiar lean shape on the street outside.

Damn! What was Cole doing out here? Jon looked around frantically. Because it was just too much to be caught by Cole standing here washing his sheets at two in the morning. He needed to hide. Maybe Cole would just pass by. He wasn't carrying any laundry in those slender pale hands.

Jon had a frantic moment of wondering if he would fit inside a washer. He was a small guy, inches shorter than Cole. But that was crazy. There was nowhere, nowhere... in a fit of irrational panic, he hoisted himself up on top of a bank of dryers. And only then realized that instead of being in plain sight through the window calmly washing his clothes, he was now in plain sight perched in the air like a demented monkey. And sure enough, Cole looked over, stared in the window, and headed toward the door.


message 15: by Shaz (new)

Shaz Jon watched him come in. His gait was jaunty, his hair fashionably mussed, his jacket back on. No evidence of where he'd been or what he'd been doing. Jon had never been able to read Cole. Which was a curse, given the vividness of Jon's imagination.

Cole came up to him. “Um. Do I want to know what you're doing up there?”

“There was a mouse.”

“A mouse?”

“Little brown thing, four legs, squeak? They have those over here too, you know. They're not some kind of American invention.”

“Hate to break it to you, Jon, but you're not scared of mice. You had a pet mouse in fifth grade.”

He remembered? Jon had babbled all kinds of things to Cole in the last year, but he'd never been sure if Cole paid more than half-hearted attention. “This was a big mouse. A giant French mouse.”

“With an Uzi?”

Jon snorted inadvertently. He tried to maintain his dignity, which was hard enough sitting up on a pay-per-dry appliance, even without Cole's eyes twinkling at him. Despite his best efforts he felt himself grin. “Yeah, that thing looked mean.”

Cole grinned back, but then he sobered, looking Jon over. “Seriously, why are you up there? Are you okay?”


“I'm fine. I'm doing laundry. I ran out of clean shorts.” Ouch, ouch, that sounded wrong. “I mean, I haven't done it for a while.”

“So you got the impulse at two in the morning? I got back to the room and you were gone. If Troy hadn't seen you going out with that laundry bag, I'd have had no clue where you were.”

That was sort of the point. And why were you getting back to the room at two am anyway? Jon said nothing.

Cole's laugh was a little odd. “That Mandy was one great dancer. I think she dragged me to five different clubs before she ran out of steam.”

Poor you. Although Jon was fool enough to wonder if maybe they'd just been dancing, after all. Fat chance.

“You could have come with us. But when we got back to the table you were gone. You and that guy. What was his name again?”

“Luc. His name was Luc.”

“He looked pretty hot, if you like that kind of cheap blond twink thing.”

“He wasn't bad.”

Cole looked down and ran a hand through his hair. He looked almost awkward. Jon couldn't remember ever seeing Cole look off balance. When Cole looked up his eyes were dark and intense. “Where did you go, you and that Luc guy? Did you go somewhere together?”

Jon thought about not answering. Because really it was none of Cole's business. But then he thought about all the times Cole had told him about his dates and said, “We went back to my room.”

“Our room!” Cole's hand flashed out to grip Jon's leg. “You brought some random guy back to our room and fucked him?”

“I didn't exactly fuck him.”

“You mean he...”

Cole had no right to look sick and hurt. He had no damned right. “What about that girl? Did you have her up against a wall somewhere in one of those clubs? Or did you go back to her place.”

“No!” Cole folded his arms on the edge of the dryer and leaned forward to stare into Jon's eyes. “No, I didn't. I danced with her, and then I came back, and you were gone.”

“Unlike the times I stuck around to actually meet the girl or guy you were going to go home with.” It was a bitter taste in his mouth.

Cole said slowly, “I'm sorry. Did it... I didn't think you noticed. I didn't think you cared.”

“I don't.” Yeah, that little shake in your voice is so convincing.

“Really? Because there hasn't actually been anyone for months now. Not since Christmas. Not for more than fun and messing around.”

Jon wanted to believe that. He wanted to think that after Cole had come home with him to spend the holiday he'd had some kind of epiphany and noticed the wonder that was Jon. Except this was real life, not one of his fantasies. “I didn't notice a before and after difference.”

“Because I didn't want you to. Because I didn't want to be mooning around after someone who thinks of me as a brother, and who doesn't date guys.”

I don't date anyone.” I don't think of you as a brother, unless they've really redefined the term.

“I know. I was glad... but now there's Luc.”

No denying it. “Yeah.”

“So you do date guys.”

“Guy.”

“You mean... it's like, serious? Exclusive? Already?”

Jon sighed, and gave it up. “Like, one guy, one time. Tonight.”

Cole's eyes widened. “You mean you've never...”

A headshake was less of an admission than any words.

“And you let that blond, slimy bastard...”

Jon put a hand on Cole's arm. Cole actually looked...stricken. “We didn't do anything. Well, not much. It doesn't really count.”

“Thank God.” Cole hesitated. “Not that I don't want you to have sex. I mean you should get to have sex. But not with him.”

Jon watched him carefully. “Luc's not that bad.”

“He's a slimeball. He's so phony! He's not good enough for you.”

It was a sensation like sliding on the ice toward the edge of a hole. The deep dark water was waiting for Jon, inevitable and unknown. He said, “Then who is?”

Cole stopped. He just stopped, stopped talking, stopped moving, almost stopped breathing. Then he leaned forward until his mouth was a bare inch from Jon's and whispered, “I am.”

All it would have taken was a tilt of Jon's head. Cole's luscious mouth was there waiting for his, only a breath away. But Jon didn't move.

After a moment Cole's low whisper went on, “I was so fucking jealous. I turned around and you were gone. With him! And Mandy said, 'That Luc. He always gets his man.' And I wanted to go after you and grab you away from him and pound his bleached blond head into the pavement. But I didn't know where you'd gone.” Cole's breath whispered across Jon's lips. “I don't want to think about you with him. I don't want to wonder what he did with you. He can't have his man this time. Because you're...”

Jon kissed him. Cole's mouth was hot and soft and felt right under Jon's lips. Just that. A touch of a kiss, from the guy perched on a French dryer at two am, to the boy who'd come damned close to breaking his heart so many times. And who now healed it. Because when they separated, Cole stayed close, eyes on Jon's and finished his sentence. “...mine.”


message 16: by Shaz (last edited Jun 10, 2012 09:58PM) (new)

Shaz

TO KNOW THE DAWN
by Nix Winter

Written for the YA LGBT

The washer was red.

Maybe that was what caught my attention.

Standing there in the crisp November rain, chill trickling down the back of my neck, I wasn't wearing a dark turtleneck anymore. I ran along a stone so warm my boots felt like paper. Sea danced in the moist air and I don't know how I knew it was the sea, but I did, as if I'd known it all my life.

"Aeneas!" Joyful, the voice reached deeper into me than the sea ever could.

I turned, my wrists crossing behind my head, my grin as broad as the path of the sky. A very tiny chill of fear spiraled up through my soul as if this were not a dream I could change the outcome of, but a memory and a memory I knew the outcome of. "Philip!"

Bare chested, the sun gifted his olive skin with a sheen, shadowed the lines of his body, the soft beauty of his face, and I wanted to run to him, wrap my arms around him, but I stood there, hips cocked to the side. His hair fanned around his shoulders, dark as midnight, dark as his eyes and right there on the street he rose up on his toes and kissed me. I kissed back, willing with all my soul to press it deeper, to take him as deeply as any man ever took a lover, but I didn't. His eyes glittered with playful joy and he pressed one more soft kiss to my lips. "I got it. Let's go down by," he said, coyly, pink tongue touching the corner of his mouth.

I knew.
I knew exactly what he meant.

I knew.
I knew things I couldn't know when this wasn't a memory.

His hand grasped mine, holding onto mine as if nothing the Gods could ever do would separate us and Crete was the safest and most wonderful place.

We ran together, towards the beach, towards plans we'd been scheming for months, really, maybe since the moment we were old enough to actually look at each other.

Through the market and the laughing complaints of shopkeepers and shoppers, cat calls because even in that moment, my face burning as hot as the sun, I knew everyone knew. Our love was like that moment when the dawn breathes warm against the dark of night and you know what will happen. There is nothing to be done about it. Those that weren't Philip or I had little choice, no more choice than they had with watching the dawn blossom into life, all they could do was watch our love. I squeezed his hand, brushed my shoulder against his, laughed.

We crested the path overlooking our beach. He groaned. There were people, half a dozen or so, picking beached fish off the soggy sand. He pressed a hand over his face, rubbing his eyes. "Today, the gods give them fish. Damn, it'll be half a breath before my aunt is down there."

"There's not that many fish," I pointed out. "They won't be there that long. I've never seen the water do that. I bet the fish were surprised."

He snorted. "I've got hard issues here," he complained, "and you're worried about the fish?"

I moved behind him, wrapped my arms around him, my chin on his shoulder, hid my face against his warm sweet smelling neck. "We can go anywhere you want. As long as I'm with you, I don't care where we are."

"Aeneas."

The wall of water felt like it cast a shadow on us. I held him tighter. I should have kissed him. I should have ran. I wanted to run, but I just stood there, arms around my Philip, watching the world end.

"I'll find you," he promised, "No matter what happens - I'll find you."

Words were as beyond me as kisses.

He sat on a red washing machine, watching me, with dark curly hair and eyes dark as midnight. The florescent lighting shadowed his face. He titled his head, smiled at me, such a familiar smile as if I'd known him all my life, even before.

A rush of warm hit me as I opened up the laundromat and stepped into little French corner of the world. The scent of the sea lilted in the warm humidity of the place, so different from the dark drizzle outside.

Joy swirled, gathered in my core, fluttering at the back of my through, through my belly and this was no dream, no memory that I couldn't change. He leaned forward. Elbows on the edge of the washer, I rose up on the balls of my feet. "I'm Andy."

His kiss brushed across my lips, tender, like coming home. Neither of us reached to hold onto the other in that moment. We didn't have to. The currents of life were holding us together with more certainty than dawn. "I'm Philip."

"I knew that," I said and I did.

I knew.


message 17: by Shaz (last edited Jun 13, 2012 03:48AM) (new)

Shaz

WET DREAM LOVER

I awaken softly to the vision of his gorgeous face just inches away from mine. He is lying on top of me, staring down curiously. Those deep, dark eyes shift from side to side as he watches my eyelids flutter open. His mouth adjusts its shape slowly, as if in slo-mo, from a simple, slightly open attitude to an ever increasing smile. It’s so beautiful when the boy smiles. His mouth seems to form words, but I hear nothing. Total silence. The smile returns. Then his head rears upward in grand laughter. But still only the sounds of silence echo through my bed nook.

When he looks down at me again, I lift my head slowly toward his red lips. His smile compresses ever so slightly while his eyes widen like a hoot owl as he lifts his head out of reach. I let my head drop back down to the pillow. Defeated. Deflated.

The full, radiant smile returns as he inches that face closer to mine once more. Again the lips begin fluttering as though he is speaking. But no sounds reach my ears. At the end of the silent statement, his little tongue pokes out between the pillows of his lips as the small gap between his two front incisors is revealed. God he is so adorable.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

His lips seem to take the shape of a name which begins with “Br.”

“Brandon?” I ask.

He smiles broadly.

“Can I kiss you?” I ask.

“Yes,” the shape of his mouth seems to say.

I lift my head quickly to catch him off guard, but he is much faster than I. He is out of reach, again, laughing in that hearty manner which makes his whole body quiver silently.

Then he vanishes. And I awaken.

For three nights, now, I have been haunted by this same dream. The same boy, about my age, eighteen. His dark, black hair is slightly wavy and shiny, carelessly mussed, it seems. A snow white complexion highlights dark-chocolate dreamy eyes. The broad, full mouth, very curvy and active, is outlined on the top lip by a thin, sparse line of dusky hair. A small soul patch grows on his chin, the hairs appearing as though they have never been sheared off before, even though no more than a centimeter in length.

But this night it was different. In this final dream I had managed to flip him over, and I lay on top of him. And in this pinned position, I was able to plant a kiss on those sweet lips. I was instantaneously in paradise.

And the dream was over.

“Damn,” I exclaimed as I realized what had happened. “I better get this sheet to the laundry before Aunt Justine gets back home.”

I’m living here in Paris with my Aunt because my parents divorced, and Mom got full custody three months ago when I was still seventeen. And she moved here a couple weeks ago to live with her sister so she could be as far away as possible from Dad who lives in New York. Then Mom fell for some other man, and she lit out of here like the place was on fire. Now she’s in New Zealand or Christmas Island or some other fricken island nation somewhere, and I’m stuck here in Paris. A Yank in Paris. A Yank in high school in Paris. A gay high schooler Yank in Paris. Nothing could be more lonely.

Aunt Justine works the graveyard shift at the hospital. She’s a total OC, and every morning when she returns from work she goes to my room and removes the sheets to wash. Even though she doesn’t have a washing machine! She has to trudge down the block to do the laundry. Can you believe that? I would totally let the sheets on the bed for a month if I had to go down the street to get them washed.

But I had not experienced a wet dream since I was thirteen. And I sure as hell wasn’t gonna let Aunt Justine see the evidence right here on my sheets. So I hurriedly got dressed, stuffed the sheet into my backpack, and headed off to the local laundromat.

It was raining like someone was pouring a bathtub full of water right on top of me. As I dashed from awning to awning to avoid the rain, I slipped on the wet pavestones of this street that’s older than the dinosaurs.

“Merde!” I exclaimed.

Funny how that was the only French word I had learned since I got here. Maybe that’s why I can’t seem to make friends at school. Or, maybe it’s just because I’m afraid of all those beautiful French boys. They are all so gorgeous. I’m afraid to look at them. But, then again, shouldn’t that motivate me to learn the damn language so that I can start some conversation, even if it is just some lame comments about the weather?

I’m such a mess. Why did Mom have to ditch me here in this land of beautiful faces? It’s fricken torture. And it seems the only English word they know when I’m around is “Americain.” Like I’m some kind of alien, or something.

But the worst part is my gaydar. Or should I say, my lack of a gaydar. What the hell is a gaydar, anyway? Why didn’t I come equipped with one? I mean, when I was back home in the states, even the straight guys had gaydars. At least that’s what some of them claimed. I had one friend who knew me since the fourth grade, and last year he finally came out to me. Not that way, though. He is totally straight. But he said he was coming out to me by telling me he knew I was gay. And always did. He said his gaydar works fine! Well, whoop-tee-do! A straight guy has a fully functioning gaydar, but I don’t. Go figure!

So how the hell am I ever supposed to find another gay dude to, you know, like, fall in love with, or whatever?

Damn, but this rain is really pouring down like God is taking a piss, or something. “Merde!” I slipped again. “Shit!” I shouted as I fell down. “Sorry!” I shouted to the little old lady who gave me the evil eye for almost tripping her. Or maybe it was for cursing in front of her. How the hell should I know why she’s shouting at me? Probably cursing up a storm in this fricken God forsaken language. “God, why can’t everybody talk American?”


message 18: by Shaz (new)

Shaz Just then I see a guy standing right next to a light post across the street near the entrance to the laundromat. He is just standing there. In the pouring rain! And now he is taking his coat off! WTF? Is he crazy like that? Hey, why is looking down the street like he’s waiting for the bus? Why does he look like he’s gonna jump in front of it? WTF?

I sprinted with all the speed that 3 years of track and field experience can give a dude even if he doesn’t want it. I made it just in the nick of time. I tackled him, and we both landed on the wet pavestones. I was lying on top of him.

“Hey, dude, what the fuck?” I screamed at him.

“You speak English?” he said with a smile like as if I hadn’t just knocked the shit out of him.

It was that smile. It was that face. It was that mouth moving in the same manner it did in my dreams. Only now there were sounds of beauty emanating from those lips instead of the sounds of silence.

“Wait, I know you,” I said, still inches from his face.

“How do you know me?” he asked. “Hey, you’re a New Yorker, too. From Brooklyn; I recognize the accent.”

“Yeah.”

I just stared down at that face as the rain drops rolled off my head and dropped onto his gorgeous skin. I stared at that mouth. I studied those dark, dreamy eyes. “Wait a sec, I’m not dreaming this again, am I?”

“What?” he asked.

“You. I dreamed you. I even had a wet…”

“Um, yeah. We are all wet.” He paused momentarily as a look of recognition lit his face. “Hey, I remember you! Three days ago, I was sitting in the hall outside the counselor’s office, and you passed right by me. You went in to see Madame Leblanc with some application or something in your hand.”

I thought for a moment. Oh, merde, that’s where I had seen that face. So I didn’t just dream him up.

“Yeah, I remember, now.” How will I forget that face ever again. “So why were you sitting outside the counselor’s office? You were a bad boy?” God, he looks like a bad boy. I think I like bad boys!

“I got in a fight.”

“I don’t see any bruises,” I quipped.

“Well, you should see the other three guys.”

Oh, oh. So he is a bad boy.

“So if you’re all such tough shit, then why the hell were you trying to kill yourself just now?” I asked in a tone of righteous indignation.

“What?”

“Why were you jumping in front of that bus?”

“Dude, you have an active imagination. You must dream things up all the time.”

Yeah, I dream up sleeping with beautiful dudes like you.

“Dude, I tackled you to keep you from jumping in front of that bus. I didn’t make that up,” I said with a slight anger to my voice.

“Dude, see that bus stop over there,” he began with an edge, “seventy-five feet before the lamp post. It’s called a bus stop because the bus has to STOP there. I wasn’t jumping in front of the bus. I had plenty of time. I just wanted to watch the dance.”

“The dance?”

“Yeah. If you’re done all playing God and saving me, and all, maybe you could let me up. I mean, I don’t mind lying here under you like this, but people are starting to stare.”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry.”

He walked up to the base of the street lamp and looked up. I followed his gaze.

“The dance,” he proclaimed as he gazed upward. “See how the rain drops flutter around each other when they hit the wind vortex created by the air flowing around the light fixture? It’s like they’re engaged in some kind of erotic, ethereal slow dance. Swaying to the beat all their own. I love dancing. I love watching the dance. It’s almost like God is playing marbles with the rain drops.”

I watched the dance for a while, then shifted my gaze to his face. That face! As he continued staring up at the dance, I stared at him. In our current positions standing next to each other, I get the same view I had of him in my dreams when he was lying of top of me. Now his lips are slightly parted and the tip of that little tongue rests upon the bottom lip. There is that sweet, small gap between his upper bunny teeth. It’s like déjà vu all over again.

“I love standing in the rain,” he proclaimed.

“Duh, you think?” I quipped.

He turned to me with that cute smile. “Hey, you wanna go in?”

We dashed into the laundromat. I saw my daypack was lying out in the street so I ran back out for it.

“I just need to throw this in the washer,” I informed him as I fumbled to unzip the larger compartment with trembling fingers.

“Hey, let me help you with that,” he said as he grabbed the pack from my hands.

I couldn’t stop staring at that face. I hadn’t noticed when he pulled the sheet out of the pack and started sniffing the wet, sticky spot.

“Hey, what the fuck?” I shouted as I grabbed the sheet out of his hands.

His lips formed the cutest little smile I had seen yet. Way cuter than even in those perfect dreams.

“So you had a wet dream? So what! It happens all the time when you don’t have a real lover.”

“I didn’t have a wet dream, dude,” I replied testily. “I mean, whatever.” I paused. “You shouldn’t be sniffing other dudes’ sheets like that. I mean, that’s so gay.”

“Dude, I am gay.”

“What? You serious?”

“Can’t you tell?”

“No, I can’t fuckin tell. That’s what’s wrong with me. I can’t fuckin tell a gay guy from a straight guy. How am I supposed to know the fuckin difference? You look just like every straight guy I’ve ever seen.”

“Hey, calm down, dude. Here, give me that sheet. I’ll put it in the washer for you.”

“No, I can do my own damn laundry,” I replied as I grabbed the sheet back from him.

He smiled that smile again. And stared at me. His gaze shifted from side to side as he examined each of my eyes one after the other.

“Wow,” he whispered.

“What?”

“Your eyes. They look like a couple of blue marbles I had when I was a kid.”

He took the sheet from me once more, and for some reason I let him. After he fumbled in his pocket for some coins, he inserted them into the washer. Then he hopped on top of one of the dryers and sat cross-legged.

“Hey, come here,” he said as he gestured with his fingers.

I didn’t answer. My legs just started carrying me toward him. Toward that face. Toward those lips.

I stood directly in front of him. He leaned forward. I leaned forward. We lightly pressed our lips together. His face was still all wet. He was my wet dream lover. But he was no longer a dream.


message 19: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

UNTITLED
by Rach

I saw him coming two seconds before he put his hand on the door handle. Two seconds. Not enough time for me to scrabble down the side of the commercial drier I perched on and hide, but plenty enough time for my mind to conjure up a dozen humiliating reasons for why he'd sought me out.

He swung the door open and stepped into the fabric softener scented heat of the room. I stared at him from the drier top, trapped, my frozen form as obvious as a fly on a wedding cake. His eyes found mine and, for a moment, I simply drank him in. Hair a shade more raven than my own. Eyes cheeky blue. Full lips eternally on the brink of a grin. My heart fluttered up into my throat as it always did when I first saw him. Then, just as swiftly, it plummeted to the pit of my stomach, the memory of what I'd done bowing my head.

His name was Jett and he'd been my friend. About the only real friend I'd had left until last night. When I'd ruined everything.

The soles of his shoes squeaked as he made his way over to me. My cheeks flamed. God! What was he doing here? Had he come to sneer in my face? To demand I tell everyone that what had happened was all my fault? I'd planned on doing that anyway. He needn't have come to rub my stupidity in my face.

Hands and arms appeared in my downcast vision, then Jett's face, peeking under the fall of my fringe.

“You weren't at school today.”

I closed my eyes. His voice had always been like sunshine to me. Warming me all the way through. I'd miss it. I'd miss HIM.

“Of course I wasn't at school.”

I'd taken my classmates crap for three whole months. Ever since the day I'd confided my preference for guys to a friend and found out what kind of friend he truly was. But this...

Jett shifted, shoes squeaking, the movement bringing our foreheads closer together.

“Because of me?”

I wanted to shake my head no, but it would have been a lie and I'd never lied to Jett.

“I'm sorry,” I whispered.

I'd tolerated my classmates crap because it had been directed at ME. I was the one under fire, the only one getting hurt. But now, because of what I'd done, Jett was a target too. And that...that hurt me more than any one of the fag jokes or bigoted comments I'd endured.

“Hey.” He sounded surprised. “Adrian.” His hands settled on my knees, creating two tingling warm spots. “Look at me.”

I didn't want to. I hadn't really looked at him since last night. When he'd come and sat beside me at the party he'd talked me into attending and laughed at one of my stupid jokes.

“Adrian.”

I lifted my head. I'd been so stupid. Such a selfish fool.

“Kathy must hate me,” I said.

Katherine and Jett had been going steady a couple of months now. They made a cute couple. Cute enough that a tight burn enveloped my chest every time I saw them together.

Jett's lips twitched. The barest hint of a smile. That's all it took for my stomach to flutter and squirm like a crazy thing. I don't know how he did it but, somehow, when Jett smiled, he managed to pull off handsome and beautiful all in one breath. And last night, when he'd looked at me like I was God damn SOMEBODY and he'd laughed, his whole face lighting up...

“Nah,” Jett said, shrugging my comment off. “She's relieved actually.”

I swallowed past the dryness in my throat. Katherine had been there last night. She'd seen what I'd done. I'd been sure she'd want my head served up on a platter.

“I thought you guys were great.”

Again, that flicker of a smile. “I'm great. Katherine's great. We're just not together great.”

I frowned. “Oh.”

“Never have been.”

“Oh.” I frowned harder. What was he trying to say? “I don't understand.”

Jett blew out a breath.

“Kathy's a friend. A really good friend who was kind enough to help me out for a while.” He licked his lips and his gaze dropped. Jett was a confident guy. He was humble and gracious always, but I'd never seen him look like this before. Uncomfortable. Shy, almost.

My heart stumbled a beat. “Jett?”

He looked at me again, his pulse thumping hard in his throat. “But maybe I'm getting sick of hiding who I really am.”

Sweat slicked my palms.

“Maybe I'm sick of hiding how I really feel.”

I stared at the boy staring back at me. My friend. My friend who had invited me to a party no one else had bothered to. Who'd sat beside me when no one else would, and talked to me, and laughed at my lame joke. My friend who, in the stunned silence that followed my kissing him – right there at the party, in front of EVERYBODY – had called my name as I'd fled from the room.

Hope fluttered like tiny, fragile butterfly wings in my belly.

“What do you feel?” I whispered.

He leaned harder against the drier, his hands inching from my knees to my thighs, his face creeping even closer to mine, lips only a chin tilt away.

“I don't always know,” he admitted. “But Adrian, - last night - I want to feel that way again. Because,” he hesitated and I willed him to continue, my hands finding and wrapping around his. He squeezed my fingers. “Because when you kissed me, it's the most real I've ever felt in my life.”

I'd imagined this moment in my head. So many times. And I'd always had something profound to say. Something articulate and meaningful. But all that came out was, “Jett...”

The edge of a smile curled his lips again, but this time there was a timidness there, a soft sweetness that was all because of me.

“Want me to show you?” He asked, eyebrows tilting.

I finally found my voice. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

He laughed. Like he had last night at the party. Laughed because he liked me. Maybe even loved me. A tentative smile touched my own lips and he grinned back. Reaching up he took my face in his hands. Drew me down. And kissed me.


message 20: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

UNTITLED
by Chrystalla

Luc ran faster that he’d ever done in his life. Paris vibrated around him, inside him, all the way to his aching bones, pulsating bodies, pumping hearts and the tread of millions, closing around him.

Sacrebleu, were they still after him? He hoped they hadn’t gone after Julien, too, his maker. Julien had turned him into a vampire when Luc had been shot outside a dance club two months back, saving his life, and Luc carried Julien’s scent ever since.

Luc turned into a side street, his feet pounding on asphalt, his steps echoing on concrete facades and locked-down shops. He’d left the Cartier Latin and the old centre some time ago in his flight from the most powerful vampire of Paris: Remy, king of blood, more than a thousand years old and ruler of the night.

Luc stumbled to a halt in a dark street and bent over trying to catch his breath. His ribs hurt. That bastard, Remy’s thug, had probably busted one or two.

Feeding shouldn’t be so dangerous. Julien had assured him that he only had to make sure he didn’t take too much blood. He’d forgotten to mention, though, that any prey on the left bank of the Seine belonged to Remy’s people and that nobody was to touch them.

Luc wiped his mouth, a smudge of blood on his hand. He trembled. A swish and a distant peal of laughter, and he was off again, running like the devil was at his heels.

His only regret was that he’d never see Julien again. That would be worse than death, than being torn to shreds by Remy’s flunkies.

Julien. The face of an angel, the muscled limbs of a dancer – an old soul trapped in a seventeen-year-old’s body.

Somewhere behind him he heard running steps and he sped up, his ribs screaming in pain, despair darkening his thoughts. The doors along the street were closed and locked, red alarm lights blinking. Not a soul in sight as he raced up the street, breath coming in harsh pants. Somewhere behind him, in a side street, something crashed.

Oh bordel! A flickering shop sign caught his eye – a laundrette! – and he turned, wrenching the door open and bolting inside. The air was hot and humid. Empty. Pressing a hand to his side, he lurched between the two rows of machines and hunkered down behind them, hiding.

He’d barely calmed his heart and gotten his breathing under control, the pain in check, when the door chimed and opened, letting in a breath of cold air and a vampire. Luc felt the signature of the undying race in his bones.

Then a familiar baritone voice, marred by a thread of worry, called out, “Luc?”

“Julien!” Luc thought he might be sick with relief. He stepped out of his hiding place, running a hand through his mussed hair.

Julien stood between the machines, hands fisted at his sides, red bleeding into the irises of his dark eyes, fangs bared in a snarl.

He was pissed. Merde, that wasn’t good. Luc opened his mouth to ask how Julien had found him, if anyone was behind him. He took a deep breath, and pain flared in his side.

Julien raised a hand to silence him. “What were you thinking, going to the left bank to hunt?” His dark brows knitted over his eyes. “Why didn’t you wait, as I asked you?”

“You were with Sylvie.” Luc scowled. “I didn’t think you’d be coming out anytime tonight. You were busy.” And why did the words come out so bitter?

“I wasn’t...” Julien’s eyes widened. “We were only discussing something.”

Yeah, right. “In her bedroom?” Maybe it was the lies that made Luc bitter, when he wanted, when he ached to have Julien hold him close, caress his face with those long, fine fingers. So useless, this wanting and hoping.

Luc turned away, an arm curling around his aching ribs.

“Are you all right?” Julien’s warm voice made him shiver. “Let me see.”

Without waiting for a reply, Julien turned him around and prodded Luc’s ribs, his face grim. Dieu, but Luc loved the look of concentration on the other vampire’s face, the faint color touching the high cheekbones, the pale curve of his throat, the black curls brushing his smooth nape.

“Not broken,” Julien gave his verdict and his lips tilted up in a breathtaking smile. Luc wanted, would die for—

No, don’t go there. Julien would never care for him that way. If only—

“Talk to me.” Julien’s whisper against his cheek made him shudder. When had he stepped so close? Julien’s hands clasped his shoulders. Those dark eyes, the red of anger gone from their cores, studied him. “Did they hurt you elsewhere? Did something else happen?”

“I’m fine,” Luc said. As fine as I can be without having you.

Julien’s face relaxed. “Good. I smelled your fear and started tracking you, but when I found out what happened, I had to stop and send a message to Remy to call back his vampires.”

“And he just accepted it?”

“You’re a new vampire. He could be in my place some day soon.”

Luc nodded. Julien was so close to him, it was disconcerting. Divine. Dangerous.

“Something else is bothering you,” Julien said.

Damn right about that, and there’s nothing you can do about it. “You never told me not to visit the left bank.”

“I thought everyone knew that Remy reigns there. I did tell you to wait and hunt with me until you learned our ways.”

Heat licked Luc’s neck. “I left to give you space to do with Sylvie—”

“Sylvie and I,” Julien took a deep breath, “are just friends.”

A sliver of laughter, sharp and painful, tore up Luc’s throat. “You don’t need to coddle me. I’ll be fine.”

Julien’s eyes narrowed into dark slits. “Will be?”

Zut! Just what had he admitted to, with those words? “Bordel, écoute, Julien...” Panic gripped him. He’d lose Julien forever, and he’d never even had him in the first place. “It’s none of my business. I didn’t mean anything, I swear.”

Shuddering again, he took a step back and his back met the huge washing machine. He leaned against it, exhausted.

Julien took that step, closing the distance, and damn him for making it seem so easy, as if it wasn’t the chasm Luc knew it to be.

Julien’s long, narrow hand gripped the machine right next to Luc’s head, and he stared, mesmerized, at the strong line of a jaw, the soft curve of lips, the fine shell of an ear peeking through dark tufts of hair.

“I asked for Sylvie’s advice,” Julien said, his voice low, his face unreadable. “You see, I have never done this before.”

“What do you mean?” Luc stared at Julien’s beautiful profile, confused. “Done what?”

“What my heart tells me to.”

“Your heart...” The words deserted Luc. He narrowed his eyes, trying to decipher the other vampire. But suddenly Julien grabbed him around the waist, startling him, and effortlessly lifted him. He sat Luc on top of the washing machine and looked up at him, his dark eyes serious.

Petard. Luc crossed his legs in an effort to steady himself, to contain a new shudder. “And what did Sylvie say?”

Julien buried his fingers in his mussed hair and bit his lower lip. “To listen to my heart.”

Julien, nervous? Luc’s mind was frozen.

“The night I found you outside that club, bleeding to death...” Julien shook his head and looked away.

Luc’s mouth went dry. Was Julien going to say he regretted saving him? Was this his way of saying goodbye?

“What about it?” he prompted, unable to take the silence any longer.

“I thought you were gone already, and I...” Julien slowly turned to look at Luc, stared right into his eyes. Luc thought he saw pain there.

“But I’m not gone,” he said. “I’m here.”

Julien’s eyes shone too bright. He closed them. “Sylvie said to tell you the whole truth, so here it goes. I fell for you much before that night, months and months before. You’re the reason I kept returning to that wretched dance club – just to catch another glimpse of you, to see your smile again. And then I thought I’d lost you forever. Not that you’d want to be with me, an undead, a dark soul, but the thought of never hearing your laughter ever again... That almost killed me.”

Luc had no breath to speak, or words to offer, his thoughts stumbling over one another. He raised a hand toward Julien’s face, but he didn’t dare touch, in case it was all a dream and it might shatter to pieces.

“Even after I turned you, I thought you had to despise me for what I am.” Julien’s voice wavered. “I never thought I’d get a chance to be with you. But I love your smile, your jokes, your eyes... I’ve been a vampire for a hundred years, Luc, and this is the first time I want to be with someone. To be with you. Am I wrong to want this?”

His head bowed against his chest, dark hair hiding his eyes.

Dieu, Luc couldn’t think, couldn’t speak with Julien’s words ringing in his ears, with Julien so close, his soft lips so near. But he had to answer this important question. So he reached down and lifted Julien’s chin, looked straight into those expressive eyes.

“Not wrong at all,” he finally managed and smiled. “Because I love you too.”

And he brushed Julien’s lips with his own.


message 21: by Shaz (new)

Shaz DECEMBER 2011




message 22: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

SILVER SUN COMICS
by Elci

Why was the world’s longest song stuck in his head? Seriously?! Ethan had many, many questions to ask the universe – like the best way to come out to his family, to his friends, how to go about getting a gaydar (and hopefully a boyfriend), serious life altering questions - but on top of the list was: why that song. It used to be a good song until it took residence in his head. He had so much going on, and that was the one thing he didn’t need. As he looked around his room, his spiritual home for 17 years Ethan sighed. Sighing was his new hobby. It annoyed his parents, but when the universe had seen fit to do song torture, on top of all the other stuff he had to deal with then sighing was as good as it got.

Nothing better than lying in bed trying to answer life’s questions while trying not to think somewhat pervy thoughts about the cute boy in his life. Cole. Sigh. Cole and Ethan sitting under a tree… Oh if the world only knew how nuts he was, Ethan laughed to himself. He decided it was time to get up before he planned the wedding and the happily ever after. But before all that there was the coming out and the finding out. Independence Day, yeah, this coming Tuesday was when it would all go down. Only days to go, Ethan sighed again.

Only one person knew he was gay. One. His uncle, he was a youth councilor/therapist. Something like that. All Ethan knew was that he worked with teens. It was his job to be understanding. One day Ethan had been looking at his Tumblr dash and cute boy picture after cute boy picture and a secret was no longer a secret. That's what he got for following kids that were out and proud. He called his uncle and told him. Just like that. His uncle had been really cool about it and had promised not to say anything to anyone ever. He had an ally and that was great but the hard part was still to come. Telling the parental units, acquiring gaydar and Cole.

He and Cole had met at a local comic book store 6 months ago. They were the same age but went to different schools; the schools were not really far from each other. Their first conversations were about story lines, plots, favorites. This continued every Saturday. Silver Sun Comics at 10 lunch after that. They always talked, first about the important stuff, the comics then about life. Not once had they cancelled. Ethan figured Cole knew everything about him except the big secret. A weekly Saturday date even if it was only in Ethan’s mind.

"Hey stranger." Ethan walked up to Cole "have you seen the new Justice League comic?" He tried to not stare while he moved over to the new comic section.

"Nah, dude. I just got here. So I figured we’d look together and see if the other new stuff came in. Have you seen the new Batwoman? She’s actually a lesbian in this one. It’s kinda neat." Ethan looked over to him, opened his mouth and nothing. Cole continued "Hey, did I tell you that my sister and her little friends decided to make friendship bracelets?" They both laughed. "Yeah, they’re fun to make. Hey have you realized that we’ve met here weekly for 6 months. So, I, uh, got you one." Ethan looked over and Cole had the bracelet in his hand. "You don’t have to wear it, but I wanted to get you one, since you’re my best comic book collecting friend and because you let me buy that comic that one time even though you wanted it too. It looks really nice in my collection." Cole bumped him with his shoulder and laughed.

"Jerk. You owe me more than a bracelet"

"Hey, I said thank you. Plus I bought you lunch that day and I let you read it."

"Thanks. How kind of you." They both burst out laughing. "Anyway, thanks for the bracelet. I haven’t worn one in ages, but I’ve always loved them."

"Cool, I got one for Stacey too." Ah yes, Stacey. She went to school with Cole and was his neighbour. Yeah some people were too lucky. She’d actually come to the comic book store a couple of times. Mood killer. Not that there was a mood to kill, but still. They never talked about girls and Ethan never got the nerve to ask if they were dating, Cole never said anything so when in doubt assume everyone is straight and hooked up.

"So, uh are you going to the 4th of July celebrations at the park? My family always goes, so if you do go we should totally meet up." Ok, it wasn’t a date, but how Ethan wished it had been.

"Yeah, we always go with Stacey’s family. You have my cell so we could play Marco Polo through text." Stacey again. That girl.

"Yeah, Marco Polo through text. Sounds like a plan. So, what else are we looking for? The new Daredevil?"

Cole put his arm around Ethan and while holding a comic on his hand said "What made you sure I haven’t found it? And it’s all mine."

Gah! Ethan melted. He knew it was sad, but he melted. Right there in the middle of The Silver Sun. Oh, if only time stood still. Removing his arm Cole continued looking through the new issues. Ethan pretended to look around didn’t know what he was looking at or even cared.

Holy cow, July 4th. The fireworks were about to go off in more ways than one. How cliché Ethan thought, coming out to the family on Independence Day – not counting his uncle. He figured telling his uncle was like the lawyer confidentiality thing – it was his job to be accepting. If things went well then it’d be this fab anniversary and if things went not so well, then… He’d figure out the then later. As he looked around he saw Cole talking to his friends. Sigh. Cole. They were friends, really good friends. Crushing on good friends was also so cliché. Ethan didn’t mind that this day he was one big cliché, at least that meant he wasn’t the first one to ever go through this. Here goes nothing he thought

"Mom, dad" Sigh, "I have something to tell you guys. I need to say this then, if you have questions…" Ethan looked at his dad and at his mom, as they waited for the night festivities to start. Who knew it could get so quiet in the middle of a party.

"Ok, tell us what’s going on. We know something is and even though your siblings aren’t here we can discuss this" Ethan hoped that was true, but who knew really. His mom grabbed his hands gently "Just tell us, sweetie. We love you"

Sigh. "You see that guy over there" Ethan pointed to Cole "I have a crush on him. I think he’s cute. So... yeah...uh... that means I’m…gay" Why did he bring Cole into this? Ethan would have to think about that later, right after he figured out the secret to not crying."I’m not saying he’s gay, just that I’m gay and yeah…" Ah silence why must you be so loud.

He felt his mom grab his hands and pull him to her. "Eth, we love you. That’s the first and last thing you need to know. You are our son, and that’s it. There will be questions and discussions later on as we’re still learning, but you are our Ethan and we’re a family and whoever has issues well that’s theirs to deal with." Holy cow, really it was that easy? Well, if he ignored the fact that he was bawling his eyes out, hyperventilating and that his father hadn’t said anything than yeah it was that easy.

"Ethan, we love you and we will talk more later, but now, why don’t you go join your friend" His dad pointed at Cole "we’ll be here waiting for you".

He nodded, tried his best to clean his face. Now onto Cole as he sighed another prayer to the universe.

"Hey Cole, are you ready for more festivities?" Ethan figured this was the way to start, inane questions followed by life altering statements. Yeah.

"Are you kidding, I’m always ready. I think I’ve eaten more than any sane person should. How about you? Are you ready for some fireworks?" Fireworks coming right up.

Ethan nodded and his eyes started tearing up. "Hey Eth, what’s going on?" Oh boy. It was now or never because apparently the machine to make time stop had yet to be invented.

"Cole, I need to tell you something. Please don’t be angry." Another sigh, another deep breath and serious tears "Uh...I’m...yeah...I'm... gay. I just told my folks and …I like you…a lot…"

Cole’s arms went around him, but all Ethan could do was hide his face and cry. He felt more than heard the whispered words "It’s ok Ethan. I’m gay too. Remember, it’s Independence Day, we are free to love, and I choose you." Ethan felt Cole’s arms tighten around him.


message 23: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

LOST AT SEA
by Sammy

A hit of Cinnamon wafted it’s way into his room. That was what woke Sam…the smell of cinnamon. Sam groaned as he rolled over and tried to bury his head further beneath his blankets; for he knew any moment now…Sa-am—are you up yet honey? Sam? Sam groaned aloud and burrowed deeper down, pulling his pillow over top of his face. Sam?? Sam, it’s time to get up…NOW Sam. 30 seconds ticked by on the clock and then…SAM—Don’t make your mother come up there! Out of bed NOW SON! Sam stiffened as his father bellowed and waited anxiously for the heavy tread of his footfalls…10 seconds…30 seconds…50 sec…NOW SAM OR SO HELP ME I’M COMING UP! 54 seconds—the old man had set a new record! Usually it took his Dad only 40 seconds to come thundering up the stairs to bang the door off it’s hinges. Of course that was before…before the accident. Sam felt his heart begin to race as his palms and forehead broke out in a sweat. His stomach, settled and stable not even a minute before now began to roll and slide. Oh god he wasn’t going to make it. Sam leapt from bed as if suddenly poked by a red-hot branding iron and ran for the bathroom, just barely making it to the toilet before heaving what was left of last night’s supper into the bowl. As he knelt before the porcelain god, his thin, tight body shivered and shook as if his very bones were coming unhinged. His entire body was threatening to shatter into a million pieces. Much like his heart already had.

Boom, boom, boom, crash. The bedroom door flew open as if an explosion had released it from its moorings. In the doorway, slightly disheveled and out of breath, stood Sam’s father looking as though he were the next candidate for a massive coronary. Sam, how many times have we told you to get up the first time we call you? Now your mother is downstairs having slaved over your favorite breakfast that damned French toast and you’re up here lying in be…oh Jesus, Sam! His father’s huge shadow cast a pall over the white ceramic bowl as Sam felt his shoulders heave and hot, scalding tears begin to fall down his sallow and sunken cheeks…again.

“Oh Sammy, Sammy, baby boy, oh god, come here Sammy, come here…Jesus baby come here.” His father grabbed Sam around his now shaking shoulders and held him, rocking him back and forth smoothing his hair and kissing the side of his head over and over as he mumbled, “It’s okay Sam, I have you baby, Daddy has you Sam. That’s it Sam just let it out, let it all out.”

Sam tried to do as his father said, but deep down inside himself, in places where only unending pain and the stuff of nightmares dwelt; he knew it would never be all right again. Jacob was dead. Sweet, innocent Jacob, his brother, was gone…never to breath again…and it was all Sam’s fault.

*****

3 days earlier…

“Can I come, please Sam, please. I promise I won’t talk too much and I won’t eat all your stuff and I’ll be really, really still in the boat. Please Sammy, please can I come, can I?”

Sam looked at his little brother Jacob; his sandy colored hair sticking up and out of his oversized baseball cap like straw out of a scarecrow’s hat. He knew that if he did not take Jacob along his father would have a “talk” with him tonight about “including” his little brother in his life rather than always “shutting him the hell out”. At the same time, this was Sam’s one and only chance to talk with TJ before the pep rally and bonfire on Friday. And he had to talk with Teej today if he was going to convince him to come to homecoming with him. Teej would be working at his Dad’s hardware store every other night this week starting tomorrow, Monday. If he didn’t speak with him today, there was no way he would have another chance before the bonfire. The day after that was homecoming. No, Jacob was going to have to stay home this time.

“Sorry squirt no can do. There’s really only enough room for two guys in the boat so you’re going to have to stay home this time.”

“Aww but Sammy, that’s what you said last time. Hey, do I have to stay home so you and TJ can be all kissy face again? Yuck, that is so gross Sammy!”

Sam blushed a deep red and glanced over his shoulder at his open bedroom door checking for any lurking parental units before saying, “Be quiet Jake, Dad will hear you!”

“Hah, since when are you afraid of Dad, I mean, not since he caught you and TJ kissing on the bed and grounded…hey, you aren’t supposed to see TJ until Friday—you’re cheating Sam. I’m gonna tell Dad.” Jake turned and started toward the open door, intent on revealing Sam’s plan.

Sam grabbed Jacob by the collar of his sweatshirt, hauled him back into the room and slammed his bedroom door shut. His heart racing, Sam leaned toward Jake and twisting his face into the meanest glare possible said, “Now you listen to me squirt, if you so much as breathe a word of this to dad so help me I’m going to lock you in your closet, turn off the light and leave you there until all that’s left of you is a dried up bag of bones.”

Jacob’s face grew pale and his lower lip began to tremble, unshed tears pooling in his round baby blue eyes. With a quivering voice Jacob said, “ I w-w-won’t say an-an-anything Sam. I promise.” And with that, Jacob burst into tears, his terror over being left in a dark and locked closet on full display along with his trembling lower lip and his tear filled eyes.
“Aw jeez Jakey, stop that. Oh man, c’mere.” Sam grabbed his little brother and held him tight, soothing his back with his open hand. “It’s okay, I was only joking Jake.” Sam leaned back and took hold of Jake’s chin, pulling it up so he could look into his little brother’s eyes as he spoke the next sentence. “Hey, I would never do that. You know that right Jake? You know I would never ever let you alone in the dark, right?” Jake sniffed and nodded his head. Sam pulled his brother’s small, thin frame back into the safety of his arms and sighed. “Of course you can come along with TJ and me. Just let me tell Mom where we’re going and then you can help me get the stuff in the van, okay? Then we’ll go pick up TJ and head for the boat launch.” Sam leaned back once more and looked at Jake. “But Jake, we can’t tell Dad we’re taking TJ along—he wouldn’t like that right now, okay? “ Jake nodded solemnly and then a slow smile began to creep back onto his tear-streaked face. “It will be our secret right Samster? We can be just like pirate spies and we can pretend TJ is our hostage and no one can know he’s on our ship right?” Sam smiled at the familiar nickname and pulled the brim of Jake’s cap down over his eyes. “ Aye-aye Capn’ Jake, whatever you say!”


message 24: by Shaz (new)

Shaz Two hours later, as Sam and TJ tried once more to launch there small skiff into the water while Jake cavorted around them like a demon possessed puppy, Sam was regretting ever having requested that his parents give him a sibling. Just as Sam was about to blow his last gasket, ever patient and slow to anger TJ said, “Hey Cap’n Jake, grab hold of the mizzen mast there and give the front end the old heave ho.” Looking as though TJ had uttered a magic spell, Jake stopped whirling like a demented dervish and stood stock-still. He looked down at the rope attached to the prow of the smart little skiff, and grabbing with both hands pulled with all his might. As if that last little tug was the final straw, the skiff glided with ease into the water and the boys jumped onboard. Sam took the helm and steered the boat into the waves so as not to capsize. TJ began to stow their gear and Jake clapped his hands with glee. The sun was shining and all seemed right with the world as the boys drifted off into the cloudless horizon, not a care in the world to weigh them down. In the far, far, distance, the storm that had been forecast for later in the day began to brew and churn. Within just a few short hours it would overtake their small craft and the sun would shine no more that day…but for now their were only bright skies.

“ SO, um, Teej, what do you think?” Sam was sweating like a snowman in the desert. He had no idea it would be this hard to ask his boyfriend to go to the homecoming dance with him. Even though both boys were out and proud at school, going as a couple to the sacred homecoming dance was pushing the envelope wide open. But Sam wanted this. He wanted the entire world to know how much he loved this boy. He stole another glance at TJ’s impassive face. If only he knew what Teej was thinking…**I cant believe he asked me to the dance. Oh my god I am so in love. Look at him. Those deep blue eyes, those round soft lips. Dear god, I sound like a girl. Okay TJ get a grip, just answer the man. Stop drooling like your 12 again***. “Uh, sure, I’d love to go Sam.” Sam stared, his mouth dropping open as if he could not believe what he had heard. Then he cleared his throat and said, “Are you sure Teej. I mean I won’t go if you don’t want to. Really, I understand that you might not want to be seen with me like that...in such a public place…dancing and all…” Sam’s words trailed off as TJ’ s hand reached out to cup his face, drawing him close. The wind whipped Sam’s hair back and forth as he leaned in ever closer, closing his eyes and relinquishing his mouth to that soft, gentle kiss. TJ drew back and pushed Sam’s hair back with his other hand, saying: “I’m sure Samster. Very sure.” Sam, smiling at TJ’s use of the nickname his brother used, leaned in and kissed him again. Just then a hard wave came crashing against the side of the small boat knocking Sam off balance and pushing him onto his side where he landed squarely on top of his sleeping brother. Jake awoke with a start and looked up, just as the next wave hit the boat, rocking it dangerously.

“What was that Sammy?” Jake looked up scared and confused as another wave hit the small boat. “It’s just a little storm Jake—it’s okay, we’re heading back home now.” Sam crawled over toward the helm, grabbing the spinning rudder with both hands. He shouted over his shoulder at TJ. “Stow any gear that might fly around Teej. Jakey, lie back down on the bottom of the boat and hang on tight. And hook up your life jacket. Geez Jake what did I tell you about keeping your lifejacket tied tight. You never lis…” The wind tore the rest of the sentence away as Sam was knocked back against the side of the boat. Wave upon wave came crashing down making it almost impossible to see anything. Sam heard TJ yelling his name and then he heard Jake scream. As Sam yelled out his brother’s name, he watched in horror as Jake was swept overboard. TJ lunged after the boy, almost capsizing the boat, and managed to grab hold of Jake’s lifejacket at the last moment. But Jake had not had time to buckle the jacket and cinch it tight. As Sam screamed out his brother’s name once more, TJ’s hand flung backward carrying a child-sized life jacket in its grip. As Sam watched, the rolling black water swallowed Jake and he disappeared from view.

Later that day as the Lake Patrol lifted Jake’s lifeless body from the bottom of the lake, Sam huddled in a blanket and rocked endlessly, his mind numb with shock. TJ had been transported to the hospital to be checked out for a concussion. He sustained the injury when he hit his head diving off the side of the boat attempting to save Jake. Sam’s parents spoke quietly with the sheriff, dully answering his questions in monotone voices that were occasionally interrupted by broken sobs from Sam’s mother. Jake was dead. Sam could not wrap his mind around that fact. Quietly his parents gathered him up and took him home. When they arrived home, they slowly trooped into the living room and sat down. No one spoke. The weighted silence was finally broken when Sam said. “I killed him. I killed my brother.” His mother started, looking wildly at his father. Sam’s father stood swiftly and went to kneel down by his son. Gently, ever so gently, he pushed Sam’s hair back off his forehead and rested his hand against his son’s pale cheek. “No Sam, you didn’t kill Jake, you didn’t. It was an accident Sam. A terrible, terrible accident.” Sam’ mother sobbed and rose to join her son on the sofa. She grabbed him up and clutched him to her breast, rocking him and keening softly. Over and over she said, “No Sammy, no. Not your fault, never your fault.” The shattered family remained in this frozen, broken tableau for the rest of the night. They alternately cried and comforted each other, mourning their loss.

*****

Friday Evening

As Sam looked around the park at the myriad of lit candles and people standing in small and large clusters, he felt rather than saw TJ emerge from the darkening gloom. TJ stopped just behind him, breathing gently; touching yet not touching, giving comfort, warming Sam’s winter swept heart. As if TJ had called him by name, Sam turned, wrapping his arms around his own waist as if to hold in the waves of sadness that threatened to carry him away. “Hey Sam.” Sam looked at TJ, blinking back the tears. “Hey yourself.” With that small utterance, Sam let go and tears began to cascade down his face. TJ reached out and grabbed him, safe inside the firm embrace. “That’s it baby, let it go. I’m here Sam, I’ve got you, and I’m never letting you go.”


message 25: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

IN MEMORIAM
by K

With my arms wrapped around him, his head buried in my chest, we stood at the back of the crowd who had gathered on the front lawn of the school for the memorial service; the candles they carried the only light. Next to the main doors of the school a new shiny brass plaque had been put up, on it were engraved the names of the three students most had come to mourn.

“Are you sure? If we do this there is no going back, you’re out.” I cautioned quietly as I rubbed my hands over Jake’s shoulders. This was a huge step for my football playing boyfriend. Whilst I had been out to my family and close friends for a while now, he’d been determined, until the shooting, to remain in the closet till after high school, when the issues of scholarships and closed minded jocks where behind him.

“Yes, I have to, we have to,” Jake muttered into my ear.

“For Jamie.”

“For Jamie,” he confirmed, then squeezing me tightly whispered in my ear, “and for us.” Pulling back slightly I looked into his face. “For us?” I queried.

“Yes,” he nodded. “I don’t want to hide anymore, not after this.”

We wound our way through the crowd, reaching our seats amongst the other seniors as Principal Morgan took his place at the podium set up before the school doors. Jake sat on one side of me and on the other Keira, the tall willowy blonde who looked more like a stereotypical cheerleader than the Honours student and class president she was reached over and took my hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. Mai, the petite oriental girl who was the senior class’s computer and maths genius, who was sitting in the seat beyond, lent around her.

“You came!” she grinned widely, her dark brown eyes shining behind her glasses. “We’re really doing this?”

A glare from the Vice Principal where she sat with the other teachers to one side of the podium prevented me from replying so I simply nodded.

We listened as Principal Morgan spoke sincerely on the need for better gun control and then detailed the achievements of the three students whose lives had been tragically cut short, who would never reach adulthood and who would never take their places in society.

“In closing, I would just like to say that this school and its staff take our responsibility to the students in our care seriously and we will do everything possible to prevent such a tragedy ever happening again.” He paused briefly, looking out over the assembled crowd. “I would now like to call on our senior class president to say a few words on behalf of the students.”

My gut cramped uncomfortably at his words. Part of me couldn’t help thinking that if the school really did take their responsibility to the students seriously, if they listened to us, if they actually saw what was happening under their noses then all of this could have been avoided and four lives would not have been wasted.

There was a scatter of polite applause as Principal Morgan returned to his seat and at the same time Keira took her place at the podium. Looking out over the crowd, and taking a deep breath she glanced quickly towards the assembled staff members as if waiting for confirmation of something before she began to speak.

“As Principal Morgan said, we are here this evening to remember the lives of those students who were tragically and needlessly taken from us, but I would like to take a moment to reflect that whilst the memorial plaque gives the names of three students, in fact there were four lives taken from us in this tragedy, not three.”

There were several gasps from the gathered crowed and even a couple of angry mutters but I didn’t look round, instead I watched as Principal Morgan rose from his seat and tried to move towards the podium, only to be blocked by the Vice Principal. I couldn’t hear what she said to him as she pushed him back towards his seat, but it looked like she told him to let her speak.

“Whilst ultimately the actions of Jamie Rogers cannot be condoned,” Keira continued. “I believe it is only right that he too should be remembered as a victim. Jamie came out to his family and friends when he was fifteen and for the following two years he was subject to a campaign of harassment and bullying, including physical assaults. At first he said nothing, just accepted what was happening as to be expected. We might not have actually taken part in the bullying, but many of us saw the hateful words spray painted on his locker, heard the name calling, even saw the bruising, did any of us do anything to stop it? If we had spoken up, if we had done something, anything, could we have prevented him taking the lives of three other students and his own?

“As a student body we must all share some of the guilt for contributing to the deaths of these four students.” Keira took a deep breath and looked over towards us again; we’d helped her write this speech, we knew what was coming. “Jamie was not the only gay student at this school, but until recently he was the only out gay student. Personally, I feel more responsible for what happened than most, because whilst the bullies focused on Jamie, they left me alone.”

Keira raised her eyes to the crowd in front of her, her voice shook slightly for the first time as she continued. “You see, I am gay too, yet like everyone else I stood back and did nothing. So long as the attention was not on me, I was all right. I will always ask myself if it could have been different, if I could have helped in some way, offered support instead of turning a blind eye to what was happening.

“We must not let the deaths of Dean, Rob, Marisa and Jamie be either forgotten or repeated. We have to learn from that bullying and harassment, for whatever reason, is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. From now on I don’t intend to remain silent, I will no longer be invisible in this community and I know there are several others here that feel the same way.”

As she finished speaking I rose to my feet, Jake and Mai on each side of me doing the same. I had thought it would be just the four of us, but it appeared that others had been quick to catch on to what we were doing. From the other side of the lawn, where the junior class were sitting, I saw two boys I didn’t recognise make their way to join us. To my surprise Mr Collins, one of the younger members of the maths department rose to his feet and started moving towards us, a uniformed police officer coming out of the audience to join him.

When we reached the podium Keira stepped down and moved into Mai’s arms, the smaller girl wrapping herself around her. As they embraced I looked over at Jake, he was pale, but the look on his face showed his determination to do this. I raised my eyebrows as I reached out a hand. His eyes closed and he nodded, his arms coming to meet mine as we came together in front of our friends, family, classmates and the wider community.

“I love you,” he whispered as his lips brushed mine.

“Always,” I sighed back into his mouth as the crowds around us melted into the background and the only thing that mattered right now was the boy in my arms.


message 26: by Shaz (last edited Jun 10, 2012 10:11PM) (new)

Shaz

BEST FRIENDS
by Ibis3 (c)2011

Dramatis Personae (Provided because it might get a bit confusing.)
The Lorne Falcons:
Coach Bruce Trottier
Malcolm “Sammy” Sampson – Forward & Team Captain
Davinderjit Gill – Forward & Assistant Captain
Tyler “Buddy” Budd – Forward
Darryl Perry – Forward
Ryan “Perkie” Perkins – Forward
Jeremy “Arty” MacArthur – Defenceman & Our Protaganist/Narrator
Drake Connolly – Defenceman
Richard “Robber” Robertson – Goaltender

Cory Klassen – Jeremy’s best friend from school.
Leslie MacArthur – Jeremy’s mom
Kyle MacArthur – Jeremy’s dad
Rosalind MacArthur – Jeremy’s little sister
Joanna Budd – Tyler’s mom

Note: Though this story contains a scene in which sixteen and seventeen year-olds drink alcohol in a jurisdiction where persons under the age of nineteen can drink only if supplied by their parent in the same residential location, the author does not necessarily condone breaking the law. If you do drink, please don’t drive. If you drive, do so safely. This story also contains some swear words, but hopefully, we can be grown up enough about that. One of the characters mentions an incident where someone called someone else the "f" word.


The summer the accident happened, we’d been playing together as a team for three years, so Sammy’s birthday barbecue was, by then, a kind of tradition. Most of the other guys on the team had their birthdays during the season and we always did something to celebrate. But Malcolm “Sammy” Sampson’s birthday was in June, long after the hockey season ended. And that was a problem, because Sammy was the team captain. We couldn’t just leave him out. So every year since he’d turned fourteen, Sammy’d invited us all over to his house for a barbecue.

The first year, the gathering had started in the afternoon as a pool party and we’d all gone home by eight or nine. But now we were older. Malcolm’s parents were there to make sure things didn’t get out of control, but it was definitely a high school party. It was later at night. Girlfriends were invited. The beverages were BYOB, and most of us had at least a couple of beers or whatever.

It wasn’t a good night for it. It had been overcast since about noon, and not long after we’d finished barbecuing it started to rain. The pool and the patio were abandoned and we all ended up in the Sampsons’ basement, shooting pool, playing video games, listening to music, hanging out. A few couples were even making out here and there, but nothing too heavy. Despite the crummy weather, the party wasn’t working out too terribly after all.

I was having a great time, even though this wasn’t the same group of guys I usually hung around with at school, and my best friend, Cory, wasn’t there. See, you have to understand that we were all team mates. We’d been on tournament trips together, bussed to neighbouring towns for games, had gotten up at ungodly hours to practise together, shared losses and victories. We were close. That’s not to say there weren’t sometimes “issues”, both on and off the ice. Sometimes there was resentment about ice time or about someone not pulling his weight. Just a few months before, Perkie and Gill, linemates for two seasons running, had gotten into it over a girl they both liked. But that was all over with by then.

It was about eleven when things turned bad. I’d just finished texting with Cory who was out of town for the weekend at his older sister’s wedding, and I was in a good mood. Putting my phone back in my pocket, I’d then walked over to Sammy, who’d brought down a couple of trays of nachos that his mom had made for us. I was talking with him and Gill, so I can’t tell you what it was that prompted Darryl Perry to open his big mouth. Man, I really shouldn’t say that. I mean, he was wrong and everything, but I know he wishes he could take it back.

I just heard him laugh disdainfully. “That’s so gay.” I turned a bit to see what it was he was snickering at on the TV screen.

But it was Buddy who got my attention. He was taking a couple of steps closer to Perry. “When you want to say something is bad or stupid, don’t call it ‘gay’, all right?” he said quietly.

Buddy. Tyler Budd. He’d been my best friend all through elementary school. He’d lived two doors down from me and we were the same age. We’d done all the kid stuff together—playing at the park, building snow forts, riding our bikes. We’d even learned to skate together when his dad took us on Sundays to the outdoor rink when we were five. We’d drifted a bit, partly because his family had moved to a street in another part of the neighbourhood, partly because once we got to high school we gravitated to different groups of friends. We were still on good terms though and I was always glad that we were still in touch through the team.

On the first day of practice the year before, he’d asked us all to stay afterwards because he needed to tell us something. I couldn’t imagine for a minute what it was. Maybe he was moving? Joining the Ravens, our traditional rivals? Maybe he was sick. Leukemia or something? As it turned out, he wasn’t moving. Or sick. Tyler Budd stood up one of the benches and, only after he was sure he had everyone’s attention, announced that he was gay. He said he didn’t want to stay on the team if anyone had a problem with that. He told us to talk it over and let him know at the next practice. And then he hopped down, picked up his bag, and walked out. It was the bravest thing I’d ever seen anyone do in real life.

As for us, we were all taken aback. We wouldn’t have been more stunned if he’d announced he’d been called up for a tryout with the national junior team. Even me, who’d known him forever. Maybe I was more surprised because of that.

Anyway, Sammy called on anyone who had anything he’d like to say to step forward. We all just stood there, no one wanting to be the first to break the silence. Sammy looked right at me. “What do you say, Arty?”

“Me?”

There was a knock at the door and the coach stuck his head in. “What’s taking you boys so long? Hurry up. There’s an Atom team that has the ice next.”

“Sure thing, Coach,” said Sammy. “We’ll be done in a minute.” The door was already closing. Sammy hadn’t taken his eyes off of me for a moment.

“Um. I say…I don’t care. Buddy’s my friend. He’s our team mate. Why should he leave the team just because he’s…different? I mean he’s different than us because he’s not into girls, but he’s not a different person than he was before.” At least that’s what I remember saying. I was a bit muddled, I admit.

Sammy just nodded. “Anyone else?” Some head shakes, no. “That settles it, then. Buddy stays.”

And so he had. There were a few guys uncomfortable at first but they got used to it pretty quick. There was only one, whose family was really religious, that ended up quitting over it. We all just went on as normal. No big deal, right? Once in a while, we teased him about having a boyfriend or about his sense of style, but not more than anyone else was teased about their personal lives. Nobody ever said anything mean or called him names. To us, he was one of us. I don’t know how he saw it, or if he ever thought someone had crossed the line.

But maybe sometimes we did, or maybe sometimes he just wasn’t in the mood for it at all. Now that I look back on it, I find it kind of weird that nothing like this had happened before. I keep playing it back in my mind. I can’t help it.

Now it was Perry’s turn. “Why not? I can call it anything I want to. I don’t mean anything against you. Just lighten up.”

“Just don’t do it.” He was still quiet, authoritative. No, not authoritative. Determined.

Now everyone was paying attention. The game at the pool table had stopped.

“Aww, poor Bunny. He’s just so sensitive.” Perry laughed at his own mockery.

“What did you call me?” Buddy lunged for Perry, drew his fist back to clock him. Now, Buddy was no goon, but let’s just say he’d spent enough five-minute stretches in the penalty box to make a guy think twice about getting on his bad side.

However, Buddy’s fist never connected. Two of the other guys intervened, holding him back. “Let it go, Ty. It’s not worth it,” said Drake Connolly, one hand stretching the back of Buddy’s shirt, the other pulling on his shoulder.

“You know something? Sometimes you’re a Class A fucking asshole, Darryl. And the rest of you?” He looked accusingly around the room. “Suck.” Then Tyler Budd shook off the restraining hands, turned away, and made for the stairs. No one said a word.

It had all happened so fast. Sammy, the one who was usually able to sort things out, hadn’t even moved. Now he passed the tray he was carrying to me, and went up the stairs two at a time after Buddy. I don’t know if he managed to catch him before he left, and if he did, what he said. I still haven’t had the balls to ask.

I went to put the tray down. I didn’t know what to do. It seemed like things were already being taken care of. Sammy had gone after Buddy and a few people, including Drake’s girlfriend, Sarah, were having a chat with Perry, telling him he shouldn’t have been such an ass. He was on the defensive, saying that everyone used the word gay like he had and Buddy shouldn’t take it personally. By the time Sammy came back though, he’d at least admitted that he had gone too far with the Bunny comment. He’d definitely and deliberately insulted him with that. Grudgingly, Perry agreed to apologise the next time he’d see him.

The incident was over. The party, now a little more subdued, continued for another hour and a half or so. My mom came to pick me up at about 12:30, and, once I’d texted to Cory again to let him know how things were, I turned off my phone and went to sleep listening to the soothing sound of the rain.

*****

I was woken up the next day by my sister, Rosalind. I wasn’t keen, even though it was nearly lunchtime, but Rosalind was just the advance party. If she failed, my mother wouldn’t be far behind, and she wouldn’t be happy. So I rolled out of bed and headed for the shower.

I was feeling more like myself by the time I came into the kitchen half an hour later. Ros had disappeared, and I heard the TV on in the family room where my mom was having a coffee. My dad was working nights that week and he was sleeping upstairs. I was scrounging for something to eat, my head and shoulders practically inside the refrigerator, when I heard my mother’s exclamation. “Oh God. Jeremy? Jeremy come here!” My mother rarely raises her voice when my dad’s sleeping.

I hurried into the room where she gestured me to come to her. She was watching the screen. The city’s 24 hour news channel. A news reporter standing in front of a building, then a shot from a helicopter of a field by the side of a road. A road and a field I recognised. It wasn’t raining anymore.

My mother’s hand was clutching my forearm. “Isn’t that Joanna Budd’s car? Was Tyler at the party last night?”

Sure enough, that was Buddy’s mother’s car. What was left of it. “Yes,” I said. “Is he okay?” The building. That was a hospital they’d been reporting from. He was recovering in hospital. I felt like my stomach was on a planet with twice the gravity and my face was on fire. Dread and denial were waging a battle in my mind. The newscasters were on to some other story, but the image of the car wouldn’t go away.

My mom pulled me close. She was clinging to me, really. “No,” she replied. “No, if that was Tyler in that car, he’s not okay. I’m sorry, h-honey.” Then she started to cry. I’d never heard her cry like that before. It was eerie. She gripped my shoulders as though she thought I might go back in time and get into the car with my friend if she wasn’t able to hang on.


message 27: by Shaz (new)

Shaz Ros came into the family room first, asking what was wrong. She sounded scared. My father was right behind her, his annoyance visibly shifting to worry as he took in the sight of my mother’s grief. “What is it, Leslie? What’s happened? Jeremy?”

“I think I’m going to be sick,” I said and pulled away from my mom. I pushed my dad aside on the way out of the family room.

I don’t know how long it was before I heard a knock on the washroom door. “Jeremy?”

“Yeah, Dad.” He swung the door open and looked down at me. I was sitting on the floor against the wall opposite him. I’d thrown up but I hadn’t cried at all. No one I knew had ever died before. I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around the concept even. I still felt hot even though I’d splashed cold water on my face.

“I just wanted to see if you were okay. Your mother told me about Buddy. I’m really sorry.

“Yeah.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“No. Thanks.”

“Okay. We’re here if you need us, all right?”

I knew he was trying but I couldn’t give him anything. I was still numb. I nodded.

He left the door open, but I didn’t move right away. I was playing back the night before in my head, trying to figure out what had happened, as though there was some link between the words that had been uttered and the wreckage in a field a klick or two away from where I was sitting.

I got up. I ran up stairs, grabbed my phone and my wallet and my keys, shoving them into my pockets. Back down the stairs. “Hold on. Hold on,” said my father, his hand raised up like he was directing traffic. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“The accident. I’ve gotta see the car.”

“The road’s closed off, Jeremy. If not, they’ll have the car moved already.”

“Moved?” That quickly? Like nothing happened? Like Buddy had never driven off from a friend’s party and flipped his car?

“Once the police have finished investigating, at the scene, they’ll take the car in to see if it was something mechanical that caused the accident.”

I knew that, but that’s not what I meant, not the explanation I needed.

Besides, it was beginning to dawn on me what had caused the accident.

I took a step or two backwards up the steps and then turned around, went back up into my room, and shut my door. Keys, wallet, phone went back on my dresser.

Phone.

I picked up the phone and sat on my bed, staring at it. Did everyone know by now, or was I the only one? Was everyone but me texting, phoning each other? Had Sammy found out? My phone had been off since the night before. Buddy’s parents knew. The police would’ve told them. The night before? Another wave of nausea washed over me. What if—what if he’d called me? Before? I hadn’t checked my messages. No, that wasn’t right. I’d been texting with Cory after I’d gotten home. No messages then. So then the last thing he said to me was that blanket condemnation of all of us. My eyes stung. It just wasn’t possible.

I didn’t want to talk to Sammy or any of the other guys on the team. Not then. I didn’t want to talk to my parents. I wanted to be alone, but not alone at the same time. What I wanted was Cory to be there with me.

Cory and I had met in grade nine. One day, he leaned across the aisle between our desks and made some funny comment about Julius Caesar that I don’t remember. When I laughed out loud, the teacher made me get up in front of the class and read Mark Antony’s speech. I hate that kind of crap. I didn’t sit next to him in English again. It was really the following year that we got to be good friends. We had math and physics together. We ended up as lab partners and decided to start doing our math homework together. On paper it might look strange: a stereotypical jock type and a cello-playing math geek being friends (He’s all “Isn’t the Pythagorean Theorem beautiful?” and I’m like “Yeah, whatever. Let’s go build a friggin’ bridge.”), but for some reason it worked.

Anyway, I don’t know what I expected him to do. I just felt like I needed someone to have my back, say the right things at the right time, and keep his mouth shut when nothing could be said. Cory was always good at that.

I slid the phone open. [Six New Messages] Checked who they were from (two from Cory, two from Sammy, one from Connolly, one from Gill). [Two Missed Calls] Both from Sammy. I looked at Cory’s messages. The first was a good morning, the second an announcement that he was on his way home from his sister’s.

[Need 2 talk. When u home?]
[4hrs. whats up?]

I closed my eyes. Should I say? Should I wait to tell him face to face? It’s not like he knew Buddy much except for what I’d said about him and what he’d seen of him at school. I couldn’t bring myself to type it in. It would make it real but it would make it seem fake at the same time.

[Tell u in person.]
[ok. u alrite?]
[Not rlly.]
[call u?]
[No. S’ok. Will wait.]
[k. b thr soon.]

I put the phone down on the nightstand. I wasn’t ready for the guys yet. I spent the rest of the afternoon in bed, listening to my iPod. My mother came to check on me once and she told me that Malcolm had called the house phone since he hadn’t heard back from me. She told him that I knew about Tyler and wasn’t up to talking just now. “Thanks,” I said.

“There’s going to be a candlelight vigil tonight at the Plaza. Do you think you might want to go?”

The Plaza was a pedestrian square in the middle of town. “Yeah, maybe.”

“Are you hungry? I could bring something up if you like.”

“No. Not really. Thanks.”

“All right. I love you, Jeremy.”

Mom?”

“Yes?”

“If Cory calls or comes over, let me know?”

“Okay. I will.”

She shut my door and I went back to listening to music while the whole time, memories of Tyler Budd kept intruding into my awareness.

*****

[home. meet aftr dinner?]

It was just before six o’clock. I still couldn’t eat, but I was sitting at the dinner table. “It’s Cory. He’s home. Can I?” I motioned in the direction of the hallway.

My mom sighed, in a worried way not an annoyed one, and nodded.

I was texting as soon as I’d left my seat.

[Meet @ plaza]

“Jeremy? Are you going to want a ride somewhere? You can’t take the car because I’m picking Rosalind up from Luisa’s at nine.”

“No. I’m going to walk.”

“One more thing.”

“Yeah?”

She came around the table and hugged me. “I know you’re getting a bit old for this treatment, but you’re just going to have to live with it for a while, okay?”

“Yeah. Okay.”

*****

There was already a bit of a crowd when I got there. Someone I didn’t know was passing out candles. There was a shrine under one of the trees with candles and pictures of Buddy, and cards with rainbows on them. I couldn’t look at it. I wondered why I’d come. I could’ve just met Cory somewhere else.

“Hey. Arty,” said a voice to my right. It was Rick Robertson, our top goalie. He’d been one of the guys playing pool. “Hey, Robber.” I didn’t know what else to say. Apparently neither did he. Anything would have seemed like an effort to make conversation, like we were just making small talk. Or worse—gossiping. “See ya,” he said after we’d looked at each other for a minute or two. “Sure. Yeah.” We did that half-embrace clap-on-the-back thing that guys do, then he walked away.

I figured I should do the same. I needed to get out of there before anyone else from the team or school came by. I turned away from the centre of the square and all the people. Suddenly I was face to face with Cory.

“Jeremy. I’m so sorry.”

“You heard.”

He nodded grimly. “When I got home. It’s all over the news.”

“Right.”

He put his hand on my shoulder. “Tell me,” he said.

I shook my head. For once I was grateful that he was taller than me.

“You said you needed to talk. I promise I’ll listen.”

I took a deep breath. His hand was still on my shoulder. The murmur of the crowd was like a backdrop placed there to offset our conversation. “Buddy. Tyler. We were like brothers when we were little.”

“I know.”

“Last night. I told you there was a thing between two of the guys?”

“Yeah…”

“It was Perry and Buddy. Perry was making fun of him. Called him ‘Bunny’ instead of ‘Buddy’. Last year, you remember that fight I had with that Bruin guy? That’s ’cause he called Buddy a faggot behind his back. I never said, but that’s what it was. But none of us took Buddy’s side last night. Not really. I didn’t say anything at all, even when he said we all sucked. I could’ve gone after him. Maybe I could’ve convinced him to stay. Maybe I could’ve gone with him and he wouldn’t be…wouldn’t have crashed.”

Now the tears were coming, hot tracks down my cheeks.

“I don’t even know what happened. Why did he leave like that?” I found myself grasping at Cory’s shirt with both hands. I looked up into his face. “It shouldn’t…he…this isn’t right.”

“I know.”

“I should’ve been there for him. He was counting on me, and I let him down. He said so. And now he’s dead, and I can’t change things.”

I felt Cory’s arms wrap around the back of my neck. I gave in to him. Gave into the pain and the anger and the guilt. I started to sob and couldn’t stop.

“It’s not your fault, J. I know that’s what it feels like. It’s not your fault. People—friends, family—have conflicts all the time. Say things they don’t mean. Mean to say things they don’t. It was an accident.”

I heard him, but I knew he didn’t know the whole story.

Eventually, I couldn’t cry anymore. I pulled away—just far enough for me to catch my breath. It was like I’d played a five minute shift while suffering the worst cold ever invented. I was still shaking and my brain felt somehow both heavily compacted like a cube of scrap metal and floating dizzily above my head at the same time. I needed to tell someone or I was going to explode. And here was Cory, strong as a frigging steel post, the one I’d been most afraid to tell. The one I’d most wanted to tell.

“You don’t understand.” Breathe. “It was even more my place to stand up for Buddy.” Breathe. Just breathe. My voice sounded like someone else’s or maybe like an echo of my own. “I like girls. I do, but I’m into…some guys too.” I shuddered, trying not to lose control again. I waited, not looking at Cory’s face again, instead staring at his shoulder, covered in tears and snot. Under any other circumstances I would’ve apologised to him for that, right at that moment.

His hands were on either side of my face then and his forehead rested against mine. I could feel one of his thumbs gently stroking my temple in an expression of palpable affection and concern. “I love you too.”

“You’re not just saying that are you? To make me feel better?”

“No.” He actually kissed my forehead. “I’m not just saying that.”

“Come on. I’m going to take you home, okay?”

I just nodded. He put his arm across the back of my shoulders and that’s how we walked back to my place.

*****

Epilogue

Cory stayed over the next few nights, and it’s a good thing too. I was a mess. Buddy’s funeral, spending some time with his parents, talking to my team mates—it was all too much, and I wouldn’t have survived it without him.

The report on the accident? Weather and speed were factors, alcohol wasn’t. Basically, they think Buddy took the corner too fast for the slick condition of the road and he “lost control of the vehicle”.

When I asked Cory why he didn’t tell me before that he was into me, he replied, “I’d have said something sooner if I’d even suspected you were open to the idea, but as it was, I didn’t want to risk losing you as a friend. I probably would have brought it up eventually anyway.”

The team wasn’t the same anymore. A few of the guys, including Darryl Perry, didn’t come out for tryouts. A couple of others had aged out. Sammy couldn’t be convinced to take the captaincy again. After the first practice, I stood up on one of the benches in the dressing room and told the guys I was bi. At the first game, they raised Buddy’s sweater to the rafters.


message 28: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

MAKING CONNECTIONS
by Kaje

Tommy was lost. He was lost in his feet and lost in his heart and lost in his own stupid head. “Stupid” was a bad word. Mom said it was a bad word and if anyone said it around Tommy she would get her angry face with the little crinkle between her eyebrows. But Tommy knew sometimes he was stupid and today was one time for sure.

It wasn't fair. Because he'd thought this was going to be a pretty-good-almost-perfect day. It was music day. On music day he stayed behind at school after class. He went to the library and stayed until four thirty. He watched the clock carefully and he knew four thirty. He'd been able to tell time since he was ten. It was super easy.

Then at four thirty he went to Mr. Conner's music room. And he could take out his flute then. No playing in the library, because that was a quiet time place, but in the music room, oh yes, he could play. Tommy loved Mr. Connor and he loved his flute. It was the one thing he did that was never, never stupid. Even Suzie with the blond hair once said he was good on the flute, and she didn't say he was good at much. So it must be true.

An hour with Mr. Connor and the music, music just coming out of Tommy like it wasn't part of him, but it was. He did that. He was practicing this new piece that sang so nicely. Mr. Connor said Tommy could play it at the spring assembly concert and people would be amazed. It would be nice to make people amazed.

Then it was have-to-go-now put-the-flute-away-carefully time. And Tommy started to walk home. That was easy too, he never got lost anymore, even when it got kind of dark because it was late. But now he was lost.

It was the fault of the candles. He'd been walking home just like usual. And two girls went by carrying candles. They weren't lit but they were tall and white and Tommy liked candles. And then he could see there were lights in the distance like lots more candles. And maybe it was a birthday. A big birthday. So he followed the girls.

They got to where the lights were and it was a park and there were lots of people with their candles all lit. And the girls lit theirs. And it was so pretty, all the flames bright and yellow. But the people weren't happy like a birthday. They were all sad. One of the girls started crying. It made Tommy feel bad in his stomach. He walked away from them to find happy people.

But none of the people were happy. They weren't all crying but Tommy was good at faces and they all had sad faces and low not-happy voices. He kept walking, and his heart got lost. And then he looked around and his stupid, stupid self was lost too. And he wanted to cry too, but big boys don't cry. Except he looked around and there were some boys crying and some of them were even bigger than Tommy.

And then he saw one of the crying boys and it was his brother Darryl! Tommy ran. He ran and he got to Darryl and he dropped his precious flute and just wailed, “Darryl!”

Darryl hugged him. Darryl's arms were big and strong and he hugged Tommy hard and Tommy put his face on Darryl's chest. Darryl was saying something like, “Tommy, what are you doing here?” But Tommy couldn't tell him. His throat had the sad closing thing and he just had to cry. And Darryl held him tight and rocked him back and forth and let him cry.

After a bit it was better and Tommy looked up at his brother. “I'm lost.”

“It's okay, bro. You can come home with me.”

So that was okay. Darryl never got lost. But the people weren't okay. Tommy looked around. “It's so sad, Darryl. Everyone is so sad. Candles are for happy but they all feel so bad.”

“Yes, they do.” Darryl's voice sounded funny and lumpy.

Tommy looked closely at his brother. “You're sad too. You're my brother and I want you to be okay and have nice times.”

Darryl gave him a squeeze. “Don't worry about it, bro. I'll be better soon.”

That should have been good, because Darryl always, always told Tommy the truth. But then someone with a microphone said something and Darryl's shoulders shook and the girls near them were crying and it wasn't okay.

“It's not fair!” Tommy knew his voice was loud because Darryl winced a bit, like sometimes. But when Tommy felt bad he couldn't help the loud. “It's not fair. It shouldn't be bad. People shouldn't cry and feel bad. It's not fair.”

“Come on.” Darryl tried to make Tommy walk away.

But he felt like his feet were stuck in the ground. Somebody needed to LISTEN. “It's not FAIR!”

“No, it's not.” That was a different voice. It was a nice voice, deep and furry and big. Like a teddy bear voice. But when Tommy turned to look at who was talking it was a man, not a Teddy bear. A nice looking man, with curly short hair and big shoulders and he was bigger even than Darryl. He had a smile on his face. He didn't look sad, even though he had a sadness candle in his hand. He looked okay. Tommy managed to stop crying.

The big man said to Darryl, “Hi. We met last week, at the bookstore. I don't know if you remember.”

“Yeah, I do.” Darryl's voice was softer. “Your phone rang and you ran away like there was a fire.”

“No fire, but my sister's car broke down in a bad part of town. I had to go get her. I've kicked myself all week for not getting your last name or phone number or something.”

“His name is Darryl,” Tommy said helpfully. “He's sad, though. Everybody is sad. These are bad candles.”

The man looked at the candle in his hand.

Darryl said, “My brother has Downs Syndrome. He doesn't understand.”

“Sounds like he has the basic gist,” the man said. “What's his name?”

“Tommy.”

The man came a step closer and looked at Tommy in his eyes. The man had nice dark eyes. Young man eyes, not old and smart like Mr. Conner, but nice. He said, “Tommy, a bad thing happened and people are sad. But the candles will help. You watch. Come on, let's walk over there to the hill where we can see.”

He turned and walked away from the sad people toward the hill where it was dark and quieter. Darryl put an arm around Tommy, and turned that way too.

“My flute!” Tommy bent and picked it up and made sure it was okay. Then he let Darryl steer him toward hill. From up on the hill the candles looked more better again, so pretty and flickery.

“Now watch,” the new man said. “People will put their sadness in the candle and let it burn, and then when they blow out the candle the sadness will be gone.”

“Really?” Tommy looked down the hill. The man with the speaker was all done. And the teddy bear man was right. Because all around the park people started blowing out their candles. Just out, out, and then they were walking. And some were hugging each other, which was good. And the ones who were walking had stopped crying. The new man was right. The sad was going away. Tommy turned to the smart man. “Can you make Darryl's sad go away too? He doesn't have a candle.”

The man held his own out. “He can blow out mine. I'm not so sad since I met Darryl here.”

Darryl stepped over close to the new man. They looked at each other. The candle was flickery in both their eyes, dark ones new, and Darryl's blue eyes. Then Darryl bent a little and puffed and the fire went out. Just a little red tip was left and it was pretty and glowy.

“Do you feel better now, Darryl?” Tommy asked hopefully.

“Yeah,” Darryl said, and he was still looking at the new man.

“Good. That's good.” Tommy looked at the new man. “You're a good man. I like you.”

“My name is Chris.”

“Hi Chris. I'm Tommy.” He held out his hand like he was supposed to.

Chris shook his hand and it was nice and not too hard like some people did. “Very nice to meet you, Tommy.”

“So now you should come with us, and bring the good candle. Darryl is better so you should come and walk with us.”

“You don't have to,” Darryl said quickly. “We're good now, thank you.”

“I want to.” The man laughed. “How can I turn down the chance to find out where you live?”

“I'll show you,” Tommy volunteered. Then he realized, “Darryl, my feet are still lost.”

“This way.” Darryl walked down the other side of the hill. Tommy followed happily. Chris was walking on the other side of Darryl and they were talking. Tommy didn't really listen, but he heard bits of it.

“...wasn't even sure you were gay, but I'm glad...”

“...first year pre-med. You're a senior?”

“...turn nineteen in August... at Sparky's is eighteen-plus on Saturday...”

Tommy wasn't sure what they were talking about but it was okay. They had nice happy voices, the clear music voice that was Darryl and the soft fuzzy voice that was Chris, the teddy bear man. Tommy felt his heart get un-lost again. And then his feet were un-lost too. “Hey, I know where we are! This is our street. Chris, this is our street. And that's our house, right there. Will you come to our house?”

“Maybe not tonight.”

“You should come. Darryl likes you too. He's happy. And I like your shirt.”

Chris had a nice smile. “You do?”

“Yes.” Tommy reached out and touched it. The shirt was all rainbow color. It had words on it. “No” and an “H” and an “8”. Tommy could read pretty well. Teacher had once said he read “almost at great level” and was amazing. This shirt was pretty simple. And the letters were white and shiny. Tommy reached out and touched the 8 with a finger. It was slick and shiny. But oops. “Sorry. No touching. Mom says no touching people unless they say okay.”

“It's okay.” Chris ran his own finger over the letters. “I like this one too, and I don't mind if you touch.” The shirt was all tight and pretty on Chris.

“I like it too,” Darryl said.

Tommy looked at his big brother. Darryl wasn't sad, not any more at all. He was looking at Chris and smiling and he looked nice. And Chris was smiling too.

And Tommy decided he had been right this morning after all. It was a pretty-good-almost-perfect day.


message 29: by Shaz (last edited Jun 10, 2012 10:28PM) (new)

Shaz JANUARY 2012




message 30: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

SHADED,
by Brett

“Kyle, don’t you dare put that thing in your mouth,” Sarah jeered, her dark eyes hidden behind the heavy line of her fluorescent pink fringe. “Who knows where those lips of his have been?”

That wasn’t exactly the world’s best deterrent. While I didn’t put the pen Jayse had borrowed in my mouth, I didn’t put it back in my pencil case either. I slipped it down the front pocket of my jeans, letting it slide into place beside my wallet. I had no idea why I did it…okay, I knew why.

Sarah saw what I’d done, but said nothing of it. Instead, she started shoving me until I got out from under the two-seater desk we shared. She pulled the classroom door shut behind us on our way out, then gave me a kiss on the cheek and disappeared.

She’d spotted Mason Bloom. He was tall, with reddish-brown hair, one of the guys on the track team with Jayse. I watched as she curled herself into him, planting a kiss, but definitely not on his cheek.

I turned away, not needing to see that. I had nothing against PDA, but what they did, you could charge admission for.

I found my locker, remembering the combination from earlier, and dumped the stack I’d been carrying in the vertical box. I kicked the door shut like Sarah had done hers about to get out of there before I had to face Valeria and her minions again.

An arm linked through mine before I got the chance. A mental groan followed as I prepared myself. Her plastic face was the last thing I wanted to see.

But it wasn’t Valeria’s arm.

I glared at Sarah but she wouldn’t let go. I could tell Mason didn’t want me around, not if my presence was going to impede on his makeout session. The feeling was mutual.

I would have been fine sitting by myself. First break was only half an hour. But Sarah wouldn’t allow that, instead she seemed intent on forcing me to watch as she shoved her tongue down her boyfriend’s throat. She had good intentions, so I didn’t have the heart to tell her—and the red-haired demigod beside her—to buzz off. I kept walking, praying that Mason wouldn’t attack her lips like some kind of slobbering dog again before I’d at least put a few meters between us.

Sarah, oblivious to my mental anguish, dragged the three of us through the double doors at the end of the corridor and out onto the frostbitten oval. The air had a nip to it, but it was already mid-way through winter so I was used to it. I’d be lying if I didn’t say the jeans I’d stumbled into this morning had helped though.

The grass was brown and flaking, but the groundskeeper had still managed to keep it within an inch of its life. It crunched under our feet as we made our way down behind the bleachers.

Sarah ignored the couple sharing a cigarette in between kisses and found us a spot of our own. The arm unthreaded from mine, releasing me. Tongues collided almost immediately. I turned back, leaving the two of them a mess of pink and reddish hair on the grass. I stared up through the wooden planks of the seats overhead. The bleachers were basically empty, everyone was underneath them apparently.

I squished my toes into the fronts of my sneakers and tried for extra height. I should have just bent down to see around the plank, but doing things the hard way seemed to be my mantra. I wasn’t particularly short, more like average, but my eyes just happened to be at seat level. I gripped onto one of the planks and boosted myself up a little. I peered out through the gap, my eyes barely reaching. I probably looked like a perve to anyone walking by.

He was there. Running of course, where else would he be?

Jayse darted around the oval track made of thick black lines dyed into the grass. He was a blur of navy and white. Two out of three of the school’s colours, the other being black. It just screamed originality. The rules were simple: you could wear anything you wanted to school, as long as you didn’t diverge from those colours, hence my white shirt and black jeans.

When you were stuck with monochrome, it bled conformity. I guess that was why most people chose the navy. Same difference, though. It didn’t bother me too much. I got to wear my jeans to school.

Feet stomped by, climbing the steps of the bleachers getting closer and closer to my very breakable fingers. I released my grip before my hands ended up trampled and sank back onto my heels. My toes were grateful for the reprieve. My eyes weren’t, though. I did as I should have done originally and sat on the grass, crossing my legs out of habit and peered through the gap back out onto the field.

I’d lost sight of Jayse.

I heard the slurping gasps of my friend behind me. She was either dying or something else it didn’t pay to think about. I left her and Mason to have their fun. It wasn’t hard to sneak out of there without them noticing.

I held my breath as I passed through the smoke cloud this time, trying not to breathe in any of their poison. More people had gathered around them since I’d arrived, blocking the majority of my escape route. I had to duck my head and bend my knees until I resembled a hunch back in order to fit myself through the lowest of the steps and get the hell out of there.

With my mouth clenched shut and my nostrils straining themselves not to give in and steal the air, stepping into the clean atmosphere or what passed as clean in Langwell High, was like emerging from a weight watchers meeting only to spot a chocolate store next door, the air, I had to have it.

“Hey, slow down, save some for the rest of us.” Jayse’s voice stopped me mid crazy-sized gulp.

Kill me now.

He was standing a few meters away from me, probably avoiding the drifting smoke. I picked up my feet and moved closer to him. Jayse turned and ducked around the side of a small shed. It was an outhouse—somewhere I wouldn’t be caught dead even if my bladder was on fire. Outdoors and hygiene weren’t concepts that went together well.

I thought Jayse might have gone in, but instead, I found him standing outside the door, hunched over with his mouth inches from a silver trough. Another thing I wouldn’t go near.

The bubbler spurted up into his face soaking the lenses of his dark shades and dripping down his neck. It trickled around the open V of his white shirt, mixing with the sweat already clinging to his chest. My eyes darted upwards after lingering a little too long on the imprints his nipples left on the fabric. Jayse had his mouth open, catching the stray water with his lips.

My breath hitched.

He even made drinking from a freaking outhouse bubbler look sexy. By now he had to have noticed the colour in my cheeks.

“You getting sunburnt, Drew?” Jayse asked, his eyes still hidden as he tilted his head up at me from the trough.

I couldn’t say anything, my lips wouldn’t move. He’d never spoken a single word to me before today, and now he’d already sucked on my pen in class, soaked himself in front of me, and started calling me by my last name.

Why was he doing this to me?

A stream of water shot through his hair, his chestnut waves plastered to his forehead. I swallowed a lump down, staring at him, my own blush unmistakeable with my pallid complexion.

“Maybe,” I mumbled. “You’re hot.”

I didn’t just say that.

“Yeah, I am,” he replied. No lack of an ego there. “Running takes it out of you, but the water helps.”

I sighed, letting an inch of the tension I’d been carrying fall away. He was either oblivious or he was playing with me, I didn’t know which I preferred. I backtracked and added another comment about the weather to check if we were on the same page.

“Why do you run on your breaks?” I asked. “Don’t you have practice for that?”

Jayse laughed, showing no signs that he’d just run the two kilometre circuit of the track, “To make sure I keep these.”

When I saw him go for the hem of his shirt I could have sworn I almost fainted. He lifted it slowly, prolonging the torture. His lower abs peeked through, revealing a stomach that almost made me cry. The sweat that clung to him glistened in the sunlight, catching the discordant rays like diamonds. I knew my cheeks must have been able to stop traffic right about then. But he’d shown me, so it was okay to stare, right?

Definitely games.

Jayse dropped the white cloth, putting an end to the show. I wasn’t the only one who’d seen, there were plenty of girls ready to kill me, either that or to ask me the secrets to my hottie-stripping powers.

I was the only one close enough to hear what Jayse said next though.

“So it’s true, you’re a fag?”

And just like that, I wanted to punch him.

I didn’t just want to though, I did it. I threw my fist up the side of his jaw, bone connecting with bone. Jayse fell back, caught only by the trough behind him. I shook my hand out in front of me like I would if it were dripping, as if that would draw out the pain clinging to my fingers. Jayse rubbed at his tense jaw, staring up at me.

“What the hell was that?” he sneered.

I offered him a sneer in return and yanked the black glasses off his face. Gasps rang out behind me. His fan-girls were having a meltdown, apparently my actions were sacrilege. I stomped off, stolen shades in hand, and pushed through the barrier of snarling girls and found an empty classroom.

I slammed the door behind me and sank down onto the carpet, poking my denim-clad legs out around the base of a desk. I stared at the glasses in my hand. Taking them was a bit far, he was probably walking around, bruised chin and eyes clenched, trying to put up with his eye condition. I started to get up to take them back to him, then grasped the edge of the cupboard behind me and pulled myself back down.

I was pissed at him. Plus he had all those girls to take care of him. He could play blind for another ten minutes. I hated that word. It was always used with such malice. It was fine when Sarah said it, but only her. I was gay, I knew that. But when others tried to use it as a means of putting you down, it hurt.

It was like Jayse was testing me. Helping me up, sitting beside me, touching my leg in class, showing me, well what he showed me. Why couldn’t he have just been straightforward about it? Why the games?

I leant back, pressing my head further into the wooden door of the cupboard. I was flattening my hair, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to go home and curl up in bed with Wentworth. My ginger cat wouldn’t question my mood, he’d just plop down on my feet and let me forget today ever happened.

A buzzing in my left jeans pocket reminded me I was still a part of the world. I plucked my phone out and flipped it open. There was a text message from Sarah.

‘where r u. ur missing everything sum guy just punched jayse.’

I groaned, not that none of Jayse’s fan-girls knew who I was, but in knowing that Sarah would want me to relay it all to her in detail once the truth of my involvement came out. I sent Sarah back an ‘oh no!!’ then shoved my phone back in my pants. It buzzed almost instantly, but I left it there. I didn’t need an update, I was the update.


message 31: by Shaz (new)

Shaz There was a thud against the far window of the classroom, on the side that looked out onto the oval. I glanced up over the desks and saw a white dove on the windowsill. It was lying on its side, almost like it was sleeping. It was likely dead, or stunned. I hoped for the latter. I hooked one of the arms of Jayse’s shades down the front of my jeans pocket and pulled myself up. I waded through the rows of desks, shoving a few strewn-about plastic chairs out of the way.

The window wouldn’t open, I tried lifting it but it just wouldn’t budge. I mentally slapped myself as I looked down, taking in sight of the latch flicked to the locked position. I got the window open, holding it with my elbow in case it decided to slam down as I picked up the bird.

I sat it on a desk in the back row, checking its wing for any breaks. It seemed stable enough to me, but I was no veterinarian. I couldn’t tell if it had a heartbeat so I knelt on the floor in front of it and just waited. I didn’t know if you could give birds mouth to mouth, but I had no intention of finding out.

I held my hand over its body, thinking my own body warmth might help it. It was probably a crazy idea, but it made me think I was helping. I thought about this bird, living its life without a care in the world, and then bam, a clear pane of glass and its dead.

It was just another point ratcheted up for another one of my mantras: life wasn’t fair.

I knew that, and I guess everyone did in a way. Well maybe the billionaires didn’t think about it that much, but I did. Living on my own wasn’t a choice. I’d come home from school one day and found the house empty. My stuff was still there, but all of my parents’ clothes were gone. I hadn’t noticed it at first. I’d just thought they were staying late at work or something and gone to bed. I realised it the next morning when I woke up to the still-empty coffee maker. Dad never went anywhere without first filling the house with the stench of a full brew.

“Bye, sweetie,” Mum had said that final morning as she dropped me off at school.

That should have been my first clue. She’d never called me sweetie, at least not since she’d learned I was gay.

I wondered at first if that was why they left, but it seemed too strong a reaction. Not to mention the time lapse. She’d found out six months earlier, I doubted something had just snapped and she went, ‘Okay, today’s the day I’m going to abandon my gay son.’

Whatever it was though, it didn’t make any difference now. I still was alone.

Luckily, for some strange reason, they’d kept paying the bills. Otherwise I’d be out on the street. Some might think it was generous—I had a two-storey Victorian to myself. I just thought it was sad. No sixteen year old really wants to be alone, no matter how much they scream it at their parents.

A fluttering beneath my palm jolted me back. The dove’s white wings were straining to burst free. I loosened my hold and it tried to get away. It wing wasn’t broken by the looks of it. It flapped furiously, struggling with my fingers pressed to its body. I cupped it between my hands and led it to the window. I didn’t want it to stun itself again trying to get out. It flew away the moment I set it into the open.

I smiled at the one good thing to come out of my hitting Jayse. I wouldn’t have known the bird was hurt otherwise. It probably would have pulled itself back up anyway, but I liked to think that I’d helped it.

It had already disappeared, but I continued staring out the window anyway. The chill was starting to get to me again, soft gusts of wind tickling at my throat. I pulled the glass window down, securing the lock back in place. The last thing I needed to be responsible for was another school break-in.

A tapping came on the glass and I looked up from the lock I’d just been fiddling with. Sarah was standing there, outside. It appeared Mason had unglued himself from her lips as he was nowhere in the vicinity. I flicked the lock again and lifted the pane for her.

“Hey! There you are,” Sarah said enthusiastically, like my location was a big mystery, “Didn’t you get any of my texts. Lover boy has been looking for you.”

Crap. My hand automatically fiddled with the glasses hanging from my pants. I should’ve probably gone and found Jayse by now. I would have if the bird hadn’t crash landed and distracted me.

“Sorry,” I told her, “I just needed some time to myself.”

Sarah looked hurt.

“I didn’t mean it like that. Anyway, where’s your lover boy, I thought you two were surgically attached now?”

A hand slapped across my face.

“What was that for?!” I scowled.

“You know why,” said Sarah. “Anyway, I hear you’re the one who’s been beating up pretty boys in the playground…”

“He called me a fag.”

“I don’t care what he called-” Sarah’s agitated voice trailed out in a rush, and then stopped, “Oh.” Then she half-laughed, giving my hand a squeeze, “I’ll slap him later too.”

“No,” I said, quick to stop her taking on another crusade for me. “It’s fine…it’s done.”

“You’re too nice,” she said. “You need to-”

I shushed her, unthreading the glasses from my jeans. I waved them in her face and she laughed, this time much harder, “You’re evil. So that’s why he’s running around like a bitch. I didn’t know you had it in you.”

I shrugged. It wasn’t like I planned it. Plus, I’d always intended on giving them back to him. But a medical condition was a medical condition. Maybe I was evil.

Sarah seemed to think it was genius, wishing she could have seen my scrawny ass take down the star track runner.

“And I mean that in the nicest possible way,” Sarah added. “So what are you going to do with the ‘mystery shades’? Ooh I know…we’ll draw on the inside of the lenses with whiteout.”

Instead of defacing them, I put the glasses on, just to see what all the fuss was about. My eyes burned, I felt like they were being scooped out and fed to the sun. Stinging needles being shoved into my eyeballs would have been preferable to this. My body couldn’t take it. I dropped to the floor and felt my head crash into the carpet, my consciousness slipping away from me.

I heard a voice shout before my mind disappeared, “Get those the hell off of him, NOW!”

I woke up to the sound of rain, and instinctively knew my legs were wet. I glanced up spotting an umbrella propped open, held limply in my hand. I didn’t remember picking it up.

Wait, my feet weren’t on the ground.

I craned my neck, feeling something smooth pressed against me. Jayse’s face, or at least his jaw, nuzzled my cheek as he darted through the rain, carrying me. I tried to speak, but before my voice could escape, my mind gave out, dousing me in darkness again.

“You’re awake!” a deep voice exclaimed as my eyes fluttered open.

I rubbed at them, realising I was in the nurse’s office. I was lying on my back on what the education department classed as a bed. I called it what it was, a gymnastics pad draped over a bench. I hoped I hadn’t been there long. My back would kill me later. The room felt sterile, kept clean with the repugnant stench of bleach. The white walls and lack of anything homely added to that. My nostrils also detected a hint of something metallic though.

Please don’t let there be a giant pool of blood on the floor.

My body jerked, trying to sit up. Hands on either side of my chest were holding me down. I glanced up, following the lean arms to their source.

My heart beat faster as I tried to remember what had happened, and why Jayse Stevens of all people was hovering barely a meter from my face.

It flooded my senses, images, sounds, smells, all pouring into my brain.

I’d punched him, and then stolen his glasses. He should have been out giving his statement to the principal and getting me suspended for a week, not standing over me in the sick room.

I noticed he’d found his shades. Of course he had, if he’d found me, it wouldn’t have been that far of a leap. They were already back, covering his eyes like dark armour. Then another memory slipped back into place, it seemed impossible that I’d forgotten.

The agony.

How could Jayse stand wearing those? I’d felt like my head was going to burst. Instead of blocking out the sun, it was like they had amplified it, inviting millions of blazing rays directly into my eyes. I shuddered just thinking about it, it was a miracle I wasn’t blind. He must have had a really terrible condition. I felt bad then about stranding him outside without them. I really did deserve that suspension.

I wouldn’t take back the punch, that was something he did deserve, but stealing his glasses was just plain mean. I didn’t think of myself as a mean person, so it hurt me knowing what I was capable of.

“I’m sorry,” I offered Jayse meekly.

I was thankful for the protection of the glasses this time. I didn’t want to see whatever look he might be giving me.

Jayse rubbed his jaw again, and then offered me a faint smile, “I’m fine, and anyway it’s just a bruise. Your pink haired friend told me what I did. I didn’t mean it to come across like that.”

He was apologising, in a roundabout sort of way, and with some prodding from Sarah no doubt, but it didn’t add up. He was supposed to be furious with me. I’d stolen his glasses, I’d punched him. What was wrong with him?

“Well, what did you mean then?” I snapped. “You’ve been acting weird all day. You’ve never spoken a word to me before today and now…this. Tell me you didn’t just wake up this morning and decide to test how gay I was?”

I huffed, catching my breath. I hadn’t intended to add all of that but it just kind of came out. I wanted to take it back, but I was also dying to find out what he’d say. I swore I thought he’d let go of my sides and stomp out of the small disinfected room. I’d put him on the spot and he had no reason to answer me, we weren’t anything resembling friends after all.

But he didn’t leave. His arms stayed there, leaning over me, strapping me down against the blue gym pad. I strained my stomach muscles trying to prop my head up, but he wouldn’t budge. Eventually I gave up in defeat and felt back into the overly fluffed, but vacant, pillow. Jayse’s hold loosened with my surrender, but lingered there lightly.

“I wasn’t testing you, okay,” Jayse said.

He sounded sincere with that steady voice of his. It rolled over me in waves, telling me to believe him, telling me to relax. I wanted to, badly. I wanted to forget the past hour or however long it’d been since I’d passed out. I just wanted to go back to the end of English class, back when I’d thought everything was wonderful, like my life was just starting to turn around. I wanted to fumble with that black pen I had waiting in my pocket; the one Jayse had chewed on. But most of all, I wanted to see those eyes of his. He’d had his glasses off earlier, and I’d missed it. Now I’d likely never get the chance again. There was no way I’d dare remove them from him now, not if it risked harming his eyesight.

“What were you doing, then?” I asked.

“Okay,” he admitted, “I was kind of testing you. But only at the fountain, I really did need to borrow a pen.”

At least he was honest. Still, I hated that he’d been able to manipulate me. But it was Jayse Stevens. I got flustered around him even when he had his shirt on.


message 32: by Shaz (new)

Shaz I had myself under better control now, though. Probably due to the harshness of his words earlier, they’d jolted me out of my fantasy world. If he’d just said, “Are you gay?” I probably wouldn’t have punched him.

“Why?” I asked.

“Why what?”

“You could have just asked me, it’s not a big secret.”

Jayse snickered, his fingers pushing into my ribs slightly, “But then you wouldn’t have gotten to see my abs.”

I must have winced at the pressure or something, because his hands let up. He was still hunched over me, but his fingers found their way to the mat around me instead.

“So it was all some big elaborate scheme to boost your ego—which isn’t starving, by the way. I thought you had the J-girls to do that for you.”

“J-girls,” Jayse’s upper lip twitched. “You mean the flock that won’t leave me alone? Nah, I wanted an unbiased opinion.”

“Well, you haven’t got that here.”

“What?”

“Nothing,” I rushed, hoping he hadn’t caught on. “I’m sixteen, my body’s flooded with hormones and I’m gay. Any cute guy could smile at me and I’d probably…you know.”

Jayse grinned, “You think I’m cute.”

I groaned, wishing I wasn’t trapped on the makeshift bed, “Omg, it’s like talking to a wall.”

“A very cute wall, apparently.”

“There was no ‘very’ in my sentence.”

“There should have been.”

I saw where this was headed and decided to put a stop to it before he ended up pushing me away and I ended up hurt. He was flirting with me, unless I was blind to some kind of straight guy ritual I knew nothing of. He might have been testing me earlier, but it seemed like he was testing himself too. Normally I would have given anything to be Jayse’s lab rat, but not today. Maybe Sarah’s constant self-worth nonsense was rubbing off on me. Somehow I knew if I’d let things go ahead like this, she wouldn’t approve.

“Kyle?” Jayse said, his smile slipping when I didn’t respond.

It was the first time he’d ever used my name. My resolve was flaking. I could probably get a kiss out of things before he swung back into straight-mode and told me to stay away from him.

But I wouldn’t do that to him.

“So,” I said over-exaggeratedly, making it clear that subject was over, “What’s with the glasses? They freaking burn your eyes.”

Jayse stood up straight, leaving his arms to fall back at his sides. Something had changed in him, like I’d flicked a switch and set him to ‘stun’.

“Nothing,” Jayse snapped, “I just have bad eyesight.” His voice seemed to calm a little then, “You shouldn’t have put them on. They’re a really strong prescription. I can’t see without them.”

And with that, he shoved a stake through my heart. I’d stolen an almost-blind boy’s glasses and shoved him in a trough. I was going to hell.

“I’m sorry,” I repeated. I couldn’t be sorrier. “I didn’t think. I was angry and I just took them. I know it’s no excuse, but I really am sorry I did it.”

Jayse smirked, “There are other ways you could apologise.”

I was pretty sure where he was going with that, and I was torn between whether or not I liked the sound of it. He just stood there, waiting for me to take the bait, his navy shorts hanging loose around the smooth, light skin of his thighs. I forced myself to look somewhere other than his crotch. Face. Yes, that was a safe place to direct my attention.

It wasn’t.

The grin waiting for me sent the pigments of my poor cheeks into overdrive. Jayse’s smiles, those lips of his, they could light up any room. And now they were lighting up one just for me.

Without him holding me down, I sat up, pulling the pillow out from under me and propped it behind my back as I leant against the wall at the head of the bed. I took the opportunity to readjust my jeans before he saw just how much he lit me up.

There wasn’t much point though, skinnies showed everything.

I sat my hand down artfully, off to the side of my left leg, but that only set to highlight my infliction. I could have sworn I heard him laugh, but I chose to ignore it. Jayse was still grinning at me, but the line in his jaw told me he was growing impatient.

Why couldn’t the school have a random fire drill when I actually wanted one?

After a moment, Jayse finally broke the silence. His voice wavered from the confident one I’d grown accustomed as he asked me, “Do you want to, uh, maybe, I don’t know, go, uh, get a coffee after school… with me, I mean?”

I knew how hard that must have been for him to spit out. I was stunned he had the guts to do it. I must have left his offer hanging for a little too long because he added, “Just, uh, hanging out.”

“Don’t you have training after school?” I asked.

“I mean after training,” said Jayse. “You don’t have to or anything. It’s cool.”

“No,” I said. Jayse’s shoulders sunk and he started to back away toward the door. I continued on quickly before my pause ended up scaring him right back into the closet, “No, I mean. I’d like that. Where do you want to meet?”

The way Jayse’s lips perked back up could have sent me into cardiac arrest. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that he was a lot more scared than I was. He wasn’t out, he was the star of the track team, it was wonder he’d even worked up the nerve to say hello to me today. I may have been invisible, but he wasn’t.

I was so rubbing this in Sarah’s face. She’d told me my ‘stupid crush’ was going nowhere. But then, maybe Jayse didn’t want me to say anything yet. I’d have to see how he felt about it first. But going out for coffee alone together, that screamed date, even if he disguised it as ‘just hanging’.

“How about Blasted?” Jayse asked.

“Yeah that’s cool,” I said. “I’ve been there before.”

In truth, I’d been there almost every day. Sarah and I practically lived in the far end booth. It was a semi-retro café with the whole red leather thing going for it. Mr Kemp dropped us off there after school and we drunk slushies and ate donuts until Mason picked Sarah up after training. I’d usually be left walking home after, maybe that’s how I kept the donuts off my hips.

“Four-thirty then?” Jayse asked.

Mason usually came by at five. I wondered what he was doing with the extra half hour. I made a mental note to mention it to Sarah later. But I knew I’d probably get my head chewed off in the process, the whole shooting the messenger thing.

I nodded, and then added, “What brought this on?”

I chided myself for pushing. I thought he’d shut me down then and there and cancel everything. But Jayse surprised me, “Like you said, I woke up this morning and thought, ‘why the hell not.’”

“But you transferred into my class this morning,” I wondered out loud, “You couldn’t have pulled that off before school.”

Jayse half-laughed at me, “Now who’s got the big head? Not everything is about you, Drew.”

He’d called me Drew again. I was really starting to love the way his lips pursed when he said my last name. No one else called me by it, and I liked that. There was nothing really unique for me to call him by, though. The guys had claim on Stevens and the girls called him by his first name. I glanced down at his thighs. McHotLegs? No way in hell was I calling him that.

Jayse snickered, drawing my attention back to him. “I better get back to class. I’ve probably missed all of the good bits already. They let me stay in here to ice my jaw, but-”

“Damn, your jaw. I’m sorry about that. Where’s the icepack, why aren’t you using it?”

Jayse gestured with a twitch of his neck down to the melted heap that sat on the bench opposite mine, the blue slosh had already settled inside the plastic packet.

“It’s fine, really,” said Jayse. “The bruise will be a reminder not to piss you off.”

I grinned, “For like a week. What happens next Tuesday?”

“You’ll have to punch me again.”

I wasn’t blushing, but I couldn’t help but feel like I needed to pinch my cheeks and make sure I hadn’t overslept this morning. This wasn’t happening, it couldn’t be. I wanted to jump up and lock the door and never leave. Plant a trail of kisses along that purplish cheek of his and listen to him moan. But there was no way I’d have the nerve.

I threw my legs over the edge of the bed, satisfied that my jeans were now under control, and tried standing up. I pressed my sneakers against the linoleum. My eyes darted down, no giant blood spill thankfully. I must have imagined the coppery scent in the air. Or maybe it was just a permanent fixture of a high school sickroom, lingering in the background, one no amount of bleach in the world could ever truly remove.

I must have looked like I was about to stumble because Jayse’s arm wrapped around my waist, holding me up. I felt his fingers push down on my distinct lack of anything resembling abs.

“You feeling okay?” Jayse asked, and then decided I wasn’t. “Maybe you should lie back down. Your head did hit the floor.”

I knew I didn’t have much choice but to comply, so I sat back down on the royal blue mat, my feet dangling over the edge. I kicked them back against the doors of the cupboard hidden underneath me. The jittery tune my ankles banged out proved I was nervous, or maybe just twitchy. The two of us had been alone in this bare, white windowless room for a long time.

“Jayse,” I said.

“Yeah?”

“Thanks.”

Jayse studied me, or what I assumed was him studying me. His reddish eyebrows had risen above the frames of his glasses. “For what?”

I wasn’t quite sure. For talking to me, for not getting me suspended—although, I had no confirmation on that one—or maybe for asking me out. Yes, definitely that one.

“For bringing me here,” I said. “You carried me, didn’t you?”

A smirk clung to Jayse’s pinkish lips, “What makes you think it wasn’t your friend? She looked like she was ready to rip my head off when she saw me.”

“Sarah?” I said. “No, she would have just torn at your ear. She’s not much for heavy lifting.”

“Yeah, what is it with you? You’re seriously heavier than you look. I think I strained a muscle carrying you over.”

“Maybe those muscles just aren’t as big as you think they are.”

Jayse flexed his right arm, pale skin bulging under the thin fabric of his short white sleeve. “Nope, they’re fine,” he said.

I groaned at his ego. I hadn’t noticed it before today. But I hadn’t really known him before today either. He was the guy I passed in the hall everyday but never said hello to, an idealism that had formed in my head. I was quickly learning physical perfection wasn’t everything.

I still wanted to get to know him though. The glimmer of the nervous boy inside was enough to draw me in. The outside was just something I’d have to put up with.

Poor me.


message 33: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

UNTITLED
by Alex

“Connor, no.” I remember saying that day. “Aww, why….?” He really was persistent, cuddling up to me from behind. Even my best friend knew how uncomfortable I was with contact, and yet he still touched my flesh. “Why can’t I stay tonight?” I could see it in his eyes as I tugged away how desperate he was to stay over. It was his last night before he went to university, and I understood why.”B-Because… Because…” I faltered. “Why, Sammy? Why?!” It began to rain, and I was the only one with an umbrella. Begrudgingly, I pulled him toward me under the plain black protection, and sighed. “Because I don’t want to be just friends any more…” Connor was truly shocked, and it was shown in his eyes that he too felt the same way. “All of our sleepovers, every time I watched you change, every time we snuggled together when we were younger... Your 14th birthday, I slept in bed with you… Did you love me then…?” He began to cry softly. “…Yes, I did… Connor… darling, I’ve loved you since we became friends, but I didn’t know how to tell you…” I remember that moment as my cool fingertips brushed away those beautiful tears from his deep, deep sapphire eyes. “No, you didn’t…” he muttered, and tried to pull away. “Why would I lie…?” “Because l-lying makes e-everything seem ok…” he continued, but I managed to catch him. Pressing my lips to his in desperation, our first kiss was our most enjoyable. Connor squirmed and moaned in surprise, but soon submitted to my love. All it took was that one kiss, his warm hands running over my shoulders and entangling themselves in my thick, long blonde hair and he knew from that moment I was his. “I-I get you now… Sammy, please can I stay…?” he begged of me once more. “My last night… I might not see you again until Christmas…” He had won me over. Pulling his hands around my miniature waist in a close hug, I tilted my head back to whisper in his ear, for he was behind me by this time, “Yes, my love… Stay as long as you want so long as we’re together…” The rain stopped, and a rainbow formed in the sky; even to this day I swear it was luck and our love that brought us that perfect rainbow.


message 34: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

UNTITLED
by K

I was almost bouncing in my seat as the coach pulled into the station. Catching sight of him through the rain, standing on the pavement beneath the black umbrella, the fluttering feeling in my stomach exploded, like a million butterflies would erupt from my throat as soon as I opened my mouth.

I’d spent a lot of time on the two hour journey remembering New Year’s Eve, the night we’d met.

Until that night I had always considered that I’d been unlucky. I mean, take my genetic makeup for example, it was as if, should there be a supreme creator who decides these things, then they were really having a bad day when I was conceived, as evidenced by the fact that I have so far struggled through my life as a short sighted, heavily freckled, ginger haired, gay computer geek.

Whilst I’d ditched the milk bottle glasses for contacts at 15, around the same time I came out to my family and friends, the ginger hair remained the bane of my life. I got far more grief over being a ginger than I did over being gay, particularly at school. It didn’t help that I was tall and skinny, preferring books and computers to sports.

I was about thirteen when I’d realised I preferred boys over girls, but it took another two years for me to become comfortable enough with this knowledge before I shared it with anyone else. The core group of my school friends, my fellow computer nerds if you will, more or less just accepted my coming out without comment, but gossip spreads, no matter how careful you are about who you tell, and before long it was pretty common knowledge at school. Even then the taunts were usually along the lines of me being the four eyed ginger nut.

All this probably also goes some way to explain why, at the age of 18, I spent New Year’s Eve at my great aunt Mabel’s 80th party in the local church hall, rather than out clubbing with my friends. Well no, probably not, because really clubbing isn’t really something my friends and I go in for, and if I hadn’t gone to the party I’d probably be on my own, sitting in front of the computer in my bedroom.

Family occasions when I was younger were fun, running around with my cousins high on too much fizzy pop and sweets until we crashed out in a corner, usually where the coats had been abandoned. As I’d got older though I’d rebelled against having to attend yet another boring family do, one in which I would no doubt end up bickering, and possibly fighting, with those self same cousins I’d once played with. I had tried to argue with my parents that I would be happy to spend New Year’s Eve at home, that all my friends, well the virtual ones, would be on line and I could see the New Year in with them. When my skills at persuasive argument failed to impress I attempted humorous sarcasm and finally resorted to a bout of teenage sulking, but mother put her foot down for once and insisted.

The weather forecast had threatened a frosty night, but by nine o’clock the hall was crowded and uncomfortably warm, a buzz of chatter clashed with the drone of easy listening background music someone had put on the stereo. After I’d done the obligatory rounds to say hello to everyone, and in an effort to avoid the inevitable questions about how college was going and whether I had found a girlfriend yet, the older generation preferring to think my being gay was a phase I was going through, I’d grabbed a couple of bottles of beer from the drinks table and slunk to the far end of the hall. For a second I thought about slipping out the emergency exit but catching mum’s eye, and the sharp shake of her head when I went towards the door, I slumped down onto the steps that led up to the curtained off stage area; content to drink alone with just my own thoughts on what a miserable time I was having for company.

I’d almost reached the bottom of the second bottle and was beginning to get a bit of a buzz when I got a prickly sort of feeling, as though I was being watched. Looking up I expected to find myself subject to the disapproving glare of one of the parental units, disappointed at my anti-social behaviour once again. It wasn’t. My cousin Lily, the closest in the family to me in age, was walking purposefully towards me, with her a girl and boy of about the same age, neither of which I recognised.

“Hi cuz,” Lily’s eyes sparkled with mischief and I pulled myself to my feet to meet her head on. We’d turned from inseparable allies as kids into bitter enemies during our early teens, when our respective parents had resorted to keeping us at opposite sides of the room when ever we met. We’d called a truce more recently, the pair of us growing up at last, much to our family’s relief.

“Lily,” I countered, raising my bottle in a mock salute.

“These are my Uni friends, Sam, who I’m in halls with and his sister Jules. They’re staying for the holidays as their parents are skiing. Guys, this is my cousin Aiden.”

“Hi,” Sam stepped forward and offered his hand to me. “I’m her pseudo-boyfriend for the duration.”

“Her what?” I stuttered as I took hold of his hand. His face was framed by short, artfully messed hair which not as bright red as my own was definitely ginger. Brown eyes sparkled at me as he raised his eyebrows. I just stared, he was extremely cute.

“Pseudo-boyfriend,” he repeated with a huge grin, not letting my hand go or breaking eye contact. It was probably only for a few seconds that we stood there but it felt like longer, with the curse of the fair skinned I could feel heat rising in my face as I blushed beneath my freckles.

“I need to talk to you,” Lily’s words finally broke the connection. With a glance round the room she flitted quickly up the steps and behind the thick dark blue velvet curtains of the stage. Sticking her head back round she hissed at us, “Come on, quickly.”

It was very dark behind the curtain, light seeping in round the edges from the main hall. With no seating we settled onto the stage, Sam sitting to my left with Lily and Jules opposite. I frankly stared as Jules reached out and pulled Lilly closer to her and then looped her arm round her shoulder. Lily lent into her for a second then pulled herself up straight but not out of Jules’ embrace.

“Pseudo-boyfriend, do you get it now?” Her question held something of a challenge.

“I, erm...” To give myself time to think before I replied I lifted the bottle to my lips only to discover it was empty. Setting it down in front of me before I continued, “Yeah, I get it Lils, your gay too.”

“Well, kind of, I’m bi,” she admitted with a hint of a grin, the challenge in her expression fading.

“Since when?” the question seemed to fall out of my mouth before I thought about it, what the hell did it matter how long?

“Not that long,” she acknowledged her smile widening as she turned to look at Jules. “It came as a bit of a surprise to me too. I hadn’t really ever thought about it and, well, Jules came to visit Sam earlier in the term, and it just kind of happened. We’ve been together for about three months now.” She shrugged as she finished speaking.

“Have you told your parents? I mean, they must know....” I looked between the three of them as the light suddenly dawned. “Ah, pseudo-boyfriend, your parents think you’re going out with Sam?” I didn’t know whether to feel annoyed or upset by her deception, I mean, it wasn’t exactly fair on Sam.

“Yes,” Lily looked at the floor as she continued. “It was easier this way, I wasn’t ready to tell them, I, well, heard stuff, I mean, when you...”

“What stuff?”

“The family,” she continued to study the floor for a while before raising her eyes to meet mine. “When you came out,” she continued with a sigh. “I know your parents were fine with it, but, well, mine, and some of the others, particularly the aunts, they, well, weren’t very nice about it.”

“Not nice?” I hissed.


message 35: by Shaz (new)

Shaz I stared at Lily, shocked by her words. I had always felt like I had had the easiest coming out possible, certainly compared to some of the stories I’d heard from other gay friends or that I’d read about online. I hadn’t planned to come out when I did, it just kind of happened. There we were enjoying a family Saturday evening, sitting in the lounge watching TV and as the credits to Dr Who started I just blurted it out.

My parents had been fantastic, not making a big issue of it, telling me that it was fine and that they loved me, and that was it. I am not sure how the rest of the family found out, though I strongly suspect that my mother told most of them herself, knowing her to show that she was proud of me and that I had her support. I’d never heard anything negative from the family and I wondered if my parents had shielded me from that or whether it was something they knew nothing of either.

In the silence I felt a warm hand reach for and take hold of mine, giving it a gentle squeeze but not letting go. The anger that had been building seemed to fade away, as though that simple gesture offered me support.

“I’ll go get us some more drinks,” Jules rose to her feet as she spoke, “you two both on beer?” I nodded and assumed Sam did too; I didn’t look away from Lily.

“No,” she said eventually. “My parents aren’t like yours. I, well, daren’t, not yet anyway. I want to, but, I’m just not ready.”

“I’m not the first in the family, if rumour is to be believed.” I reminded her.

“I know,” Lily nodded.

The family legend was an old one. Lily and I shared a maternal grandmother whose youngest sister, Dora, had, during the war, taken in a woman lodger whose own home had been destroyed by enemy bombing. After peace was declared and Dora’s husband Eric was demobbed her lodger, Agnes, didn’t leave and for a while the three of them shared the house. A few years later Dora and Eric divorced, causing a family scandal all by itself, and she and Agnes lived together for the rest of their lives. Most of the family believed that they’d fallen in love during the war and remained together as a couple, though some did try and argue they’d just been friends.

“Fair enough,” I conceded, telling people had to be Lily’s decision. “For what it’s worth, you’ve got my support. I’m not so happy with the pseudo-boyfriend thing though.” I admitted glancing back at Sam who still held onto my hand.

“I volunteered,” he offered with a shrug. “My sister and I have both been out for years, our parents avoid the issue by generally not being available, hence the skiing trip whilst we are home from Uni. We know what it’s like not to have supportive parents, I mean they could probably have coped if it was just one of us, but when we both came out I think they felt it was a reflection on their parenting rather than, well, genetics. So when Lily invited us to stay for New Year it just seemed like the best way round it.”

I hadn’t really needed any clarification that Sam was gay too, my gaydar may be underused and a little out of tune but it had definitely pinged when I’d first seen him and, after all, he was sitting here with his hand clasped in mine.

Jules returned, bearing the promised bottles and we sat around on the dusty stage floor talking as we drank. They told me of the fun they were having at university and I told them of my incredibly boring part time job as a sales assistant which helped keep me busy when I wasn’t in college.

Whether it was the alcohol or the sense of camaraderie I found myself frequently looking at Sam, sometimes catching him watching me; we both blushed far too easily. Lily and Jules sat opposite, wrapped in each others arms. Occasionally when I caught her eye Lily smiled back looking particularly pleased with herself. I couldn’t blame her, she was obviously very happy with her girlfriend.

As midnight approached, from the other side of the curtain, the background music was switched over to the radio station where the count down started for the New Year, accompanied by the chants of the family.

10, 9, 8

Their arms still wrapped around each other Jules and Lily rose to their feet, lost in their own world.

7, 6

I glanced towards Sam and our eyes met, rather unsteadily we scrambled from the floor.

5, 4

I couldn’t seem to break eye contact as we reached out towards each other.

3, 2

Without thinking about what I was doing I wrapped my arms around him, I could feel my heart hammering in my chest.

1

“Happy New Year,” we whispered at each other and without thinking our mouths joined together in a very promising kiss.

That was two months ago. We met the next day for coffee and talked for hours, and whilst we’ve been in contact by text and phone, this is the first time we’ve seen each other since New Year. This weekend I get to spend the whole weekend with him, and I feel like my luck has definitely changed for the better.

The coach pulled up a short way from where Sam stood and I slung my bag over my shoulder as the door opened with a hiss. He obviously hadn’t seen me as he was still watching the passengers from the coach in front disembark. I crept up behind him and ducked under the umbrella. He jumped slightly as I snaked my left arm around his waist and I leant into him, resting my chin on his shoulder.

“Hi,” I whispered looking up at him as he broke into a smile. Yes, right then I felt like the luckiest guy in the world.


message 36: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

RAIN
by Sammy

Dedicated to her friend, Kyle.

Friends, this is a bit dark...but redemptive, I think. Also, there is language that some may find hurtful...please forgive me...I felt the story warranted its use
.

Why should this day be any different than the other 167 days in dear old Portland? Kyle kicked at the rain-soaked curb and shook his head in disgust. His thoughts were nearly as black as the cloud-filled autumn sky. Why today of all days did his Dad decide that he wanted their monthly Father-Son dinner? Dinner? Huh, more like disaster. Kyle knew exactly how this evening would end. His father’s tight lipped mouth would be set to permanent grimace, his white knuckled hands would be gripping the steering wheel and his clipped tone would fire out the traditional farewell, “goodbye…I love you, son”. Yeah right! Is that why you only come by once a month and then only after Mom has harangued you endlessly for a full 7 days prior? Ever since his parent’s divorce, Kyle McShea had endured once monthly get-togethers with the man formerly known as his “Dad”. Now he was “Sir” or “Asshole” whichever epithet came to Kyle first. How in god’s name had it come to this? Kyle kicked the curb one more time as the rain continued to fall upon his uncovered head. He impatiently brushed back the long blond locks of his impossibly straight hair and smiled inwardly as he realized that his hair was slightly longer than last month. “The old man ought to have a seizure about that. Him with his precise, razor short buzz cut. All up to military standards no doubt! Kyle shook his mop of hair just enough to give himself that shaggy wet dog look. Screw him, he thought to himself. If all he’s interested in is what I look like on the outside, well he’s wasting his time. He’ll never see the real me. He’ll never know that I’m… Kyle couldn’t bring himself to finish the thought. His face blanched and his stomach twisted sideways as the thought lay like a coiled snake ready to strike inside his head. Jesus, if he couldn’t admit it to himself, how could he ever tell his parents…correction, his Mom. He would never tell the old man. Now that would be a joke—telling a 3 star general in the United States Marine Corps that his only and only offspring—his namesake, was queer—a fag—a homo—a flaming gay homo! Kyle felt his gut twist once more as the disgust roiled inside him and he remembered the last “monthly dinner” where his father introduced him around to his poker buddies. Anger coursed through his body as he recalled the night’s festivities that included him playing bartender to the 5 marines hunkered down around the card table in his father’s den. Kyle’s fists clenched and his body drew taut as a bowstring as the conversation from that night ripped through his brain.

“Hey little buddy get me another brew wouldya? “ Colonel Derrick Timmons, his father's EX-O motioned to Kyle who was sitting in the corner trying his best to disappear into the woodwork. With a sigh Kyle rose and walked into the kitchen to retrieve yet another beer for his father’s cronies. As he reached into the fridge, he froze as he heard Timmons speak to his father.

“So, Jim, did you end up transferring that little faggot out of your unit?”

Kyle heard the others laugh. He strained forward to hear his father’s response but before he could answer one of the other officers commented.

“I hear the little queer took quite a beating in the dormitory. Serves him right! The Marine Corps is no place for a fagoty-assed homo.”

Kyle clenched the beer bottle tightly in his fist as he heard the other men agree with Sergeant Holden. Surely now his father would speak. Say something…anything to shut the conversation down. As Kyle stood there in the dimly lit kitchen with every muscle in his body screaming out to run, run as far away as he could, he forced himself to stand and holding his breath, he finally heard his father reply.

“Yeah, he was transferred…now let's get back to the game okay fellas?”

Kyle slowly exhaled and shook his head in dumbfound amazement and burgeoning disgust. That’s it, he thought, that’s all he’s going to say? Kyle wanted to scream and fling the bottle of beer at his father. He wanted to toss aside the poker table and scream at the men gathered in the next room. I’m gay…do you hear me…I’m queer...just like that man you transferred. What do you think of that gentleman? The general’s son is a flaming homo, a girly boy, and a fag…

“Hey buddy, you bringing those beers any time soon?”

Kyle jumped as if shot through with electricity. He looked down at the bottle he still clutched tightly and marveled at how little his hand shook. He knew right then and there he could never tell his father. He could never, ever let him know that he, Kyle McShea; the general’s son was gay. Not only that but that he was in love with his best friend, Danny McBride. Brigadier General McBride’s baby boy. The same Brigadier General McBride who was his father’s best friend.

Danny. The name alone was enough to send shivers of delight spiralling through Kyle’s body. Danny. If Kyle closed his eyes he could see him standing right there in front of him. The sunlight would glint off Danny’s hair sending fiery rays shooting off into the afternoon glare. In his mind’s eye, Kyle saw himself reach out and trace Danny’s lips. His lips were so soft, the color of ripe strawberries, plump and oh so kissable. His tall, lean body, hard and corded with fine muscles that stood out when he flexed his arms. Kyle shivered once more remembering those arms clasped around his torso, holding him tightly, safely nestling him inside their quiet strength. Danny was a year ahead of him at the military academy. Senior to Kyle’s junior status. The two of them had known each other forever or so it seemed. They had played as young boys together on one military base after another as their fathers swiftly rose in the ranks to the top of their field. Kyle remembered how at the age of 9 he and Danny making a pinky swear that no matter where their fathers were stationed they would always be friends…always be best buddies. Fate smiled upon the two young boys year in and year out as assignments were handed down and their fathers continued to be paired off to the same camp, the same base, the same unit. As the years passed, Danny and Kyle became inseparable. Each spending more and more time at the other’s home, slowly morphing into the second sons that neither set of parents had ever conceived. Sleepovers were the norm and frequent, often lasting well into the weekend. It was during one of their father’s deployments that the two boys, now in high school together, realized that their friendship had taken on a new and dangerous tilt. Their boyhood had come to a screaming halt that night 6 months before, at a sleepover at Kyle’s house. That night had been the homecoming game with their rivals, the midshipman from the Navy barracks across town. Their boys had easily won the game and the boys were celebrating late into the night. Exhausted they fell into Kyle’s bed, still marveling at their friend Troy’s sprinting back 60 yards to score the winning touchdown.

“Did you see their faces when Troy lit down that field—that boy was on fire!”?

Kyle rolled to his side to look at Danny. His friend had not stopped talking since they had left the party at Stacey’s house. As he watched Danny talk animatedly about the last few minutes of the game, Kyle felt a stirring in his groin. Slowly it dawned on him that as he lay there watching his best friend discuss the game, that he was gradually getting turned on…holy god, he was getting hard. Quickly rolling away he frantically clawed at the comforter so he could hide the telltale signs of his arousal. With snake like speed, Danny snagged the edge of the blanket and said, “No you don’t you bed hog, give me back the blanket.” Kyle scrabbled back to grasp the blanket once again and tugged with all his might gathering it’s protective folds around him; but Danny was undaunted. “No way Kyle, you are not getting all the blanket this time—now, give!” With that, Danny yanked on the blanket, causing Kyle to flip over and land squarely on top of his friend. Kyle froze and silently sent up a prayer to whatever god would listen that Danny not feel his arousal pressed up against his friend’s stomach. But the prayer fell on deaf ears. Danny’s eyes grew round, his mouth forming a perfect oh as he shifted his body ever so slightly causing Kyle to slide down till their groins touched. The two boys stared at one another. Slowly, so very slowly, Danny reached up and gently pushed back the lock of hair that had fallen across Kyle’s eyes. With his other hand, he pressed Kyle closer to his body and let loose a soft groan. Kyle was mesmerized, his gaze falling down, down, down till he felt as though he was drowning in the blue depths of Danny’s eyes. Danny tilted his head slightly to one side and used his hand to gently draw Kyle’s head down until their lips hovered right above the others’. Neither boy moved, each caught up in the moment, the realization that this would be their first kiss. It was Kyle who, whispering Danny’s name, softly pressed their lips together. With that gentle touch, flames ignited and Danny grabbed Kyle around the shoulders and blazed a trail of fiery kisses across his mouth, over his cheek and down his neck. Kyle felt himself grinding into Danny and moaning as the touch unleashed a shiver of raw emotion across his body. Feverishly, they rolled across the bed, snatching and tearing at clothing, wrestling for dominance and devouring each other’s mouths until they pulled apart panting, their chests heaving together as if both had been oxygen deprived for far too long.


message 37: by Shaz (new)

Shaz “Jesus, Kyle, what are we doing?”

“I don’t know. Oh god, I don’t know.”

“Do you…do you want to stop?”

Kyle looked at his best friend, the boy who had always been there when so very often his father had not. The buddy who had held him as he wept anguished tears when his father time and time again had failed to show up at awards ceremonies, his wrestling matches, and his graduation from middle school. Kyle looked at the rising fear in his friend’s eyes and realized that he had the power to vanquish that fear with just one word.

“No.”

Danny’s long held breath exploded from his chest as he lowered his head once again to smother Kyle in a torrent of kisses. Before the night was through and the dawn had arrived, two friends had become lovers and would be irrevocably linked together in a budding and deepening passion that would remain hidden from all but themselves.

Kyle, startled by the sound of an approaching engine, shook himself free of his memories and watched with more than a little anxiety as his father approached. The sleek black Jag pulled up alongside Kyle and his father lowered the window just enough to bark the order to get in the car. Stiffly Kyle slid onto the leather seat, aware as he did so that his rain soaked clothes would leave behind their telltale mark. He glanced surreptitiously at his father, trying to gauge just how angry he was this time. Outings with dad were always a fun-filled affair, what between the icy stares and the tomb like silences…yes a happy affair all the way round. Kyle wondered which question his father would pose first this time. There were only 3 in current rotation. One, how are your grades? Two, how is your mother? Three, have you started…

“filling out those college applications yet? “ Bingo! Door number 3 for $500.00 dollars please. Kyle shrugged his shoulders and grunted non-committally. “Kyle I asked you a question, I expect an answer.”

Ah, there it was and in record time, the rising anger of General McShea. Kyle didn’t know whether he should salute or grunt out a “Yes, Sir”. He settled for the “Yes sir.” It was the safest way to go, after all. And with that his father lapsed into blessed silence. If Kyle were lucky, it would last all evening.

Much later that night, Kyle’s luck, which had seemed destined to hold, was shattered by a seemingly easy question. One his father had never before saw fit to ask him. Kyle blinked as his father stood there, expectantly awaiting an answer, “Excuse me, Sir?” His father sighed. “I said, what girl will you be taking to the junior prom next month?”

Kyle nervously wet his lips and opened his mouth to speak. His throat seemed to constrict at just that moment, producing an alarming choking sound which Kyle frantically tried to cover by giving off a fake-sounding cough. His father cocked one eyebrow at him, standing with his arms crossed, waiting for his answer. Kyle tried once more to respond, trying with every ounce of ingenuity to come up with a name, any name of any girl he could use to shut down any further questions from his father. “Let me guess, you’re not going to the dance are you?” Kyle inwardly sighed from relief, feeling his head bob up and down acknowledging his father’s statement and thanking whatever god there was for the reprieve. “Funny, that was Danny’s response to Mac as well.” Kyle’s breath stuttered to a stop as he watched his father mentally begin to put two and two together. This could not be happening. There was no way Danny’s father, the infamous Mac, and his father had been talking about their sons’ lack of dates for the Junior -Senior prom. It just wasn’t possible. Yet as Kyle watch his father’s eyes narrow, he could almost feel the wheels turning and the answers clicking into place. “Why is that do you suppose Kyle? Hmmm? How is it that two healthy young men both managed to have no date for the prom? In fact, how is it that the same two young men have never even seen fit to ask a girl out on a date while all their classmates are practically running a competition to see who gets the most dates? Can you answer me that Kyle?”

Kyle felt his entire world come crashing down around his shoulders. He knew…his father knew. He knew all about Danny, the sleepovers, the stolen kisses, and the whispered assurances of love. Kyle felt as though his heart was going to leap out of his chest. Surely his father could hear the pounding that seemed to grow louder and louder with each painful moment. His gaze darted here, there, anywhere but on his father’s grim face. Oh my god, oh my god, what am I going to do. Think Kyle, Jesus think! And then it happened. With something akin to horror, Kyle felt his entire world implode as he listened to the words slip from his mouth…”I’M GAY!” Oh my god, had he just shouted that? Had he just shouted to his father, the 3 star “suck it up Kyle and don’t be such a girl”, general that he liked boys? As Kyle stood, awash in fear, the room began to gray around the edges of his vision and he felt his legs begin to buckle as he slowly slid to the kitchen floor. “This is it”, he thought dully to himself, “I’m dying.” And then the room went black. Sometime later, Kyle began to stir, coming slowly back to the edge of reality. Trying to shake off the fog that was rapidly replacing any and all clear thought, Kyle shook his head and saw that his father was kneeling on the floor in front of him, gently holding Kyle’s head upright while the rest of his body was slumped against the wall.

“Kyle, son, are you okay?” “Stay with me now don’t pass out again. It’s okay Kyle, it’s okay. Everything is going to be all right. Mom is on her way.”

Kyle struggled to sit up, his father helping him by placing an arm under his shoulders and carefully pulling him upward.

“Dad?” What happened? Why am I on the…” Oh god, I told him, I told him I was gay, oh god, I have to go. I have to get out of here. Now…NOW, for fuck sake, get up Kyle and MOVE!

Kyle began to thrash and pull away from his father, lurching to his feet, wild-eyed and looking frantically for the nearest exit. Just as his body tensed to bolt, Kyle felt his father’s body crash hard into his, pinning him against the wall. Holding him there, trapped, helpless, defeated. Kyle’s head slumped to his shoulders as silent tears began to fall, coursing down his cheeks, pooling on his chest. Kyle jerked his head back, hissing as if burned, when he felt his father's fingers brush against the torrent of tears. His father continued to stroke his cheek, wiping away the tears, whispering over and over as he tried to gentle Kyle’s trembling body. “Shhh, I have you son…I have you. “ Kyle looked up, his father a blur through the tears, and stared at the man who held his head so firmly yet so tenderly between his two hands.

“It’s okay Kyle, I knew. I knew about you and Danny. Mac and I have known for the last 3 months. Quiet now, no more tears, son, it’s over. No more hiding. We all know.”

Kyle stared at his father, trying to comprehend what that all meant…for him…for Danny…for their relationship. Kyle moaned as one ugly thought after another tore through his panic swept brain. Would they send him away? Would they send Danny away? Oh god, how could he live without Danny? How could he go on day in day out in this hellish existence with a father who hated him and nobody to call his own. No one to hold him when the darkness came, when the night closed in and the fear that his father would never love him again came rushing back once again. No…No! He couldn’t let them do that. He couldn’t let them send Danny away. No...No…

”NO. I won’t let you! Do you hear me? You can’t send him away. He’s the one best thing in my life you bastard and I won’t let you take him from me. “

Kyle heard himself shouting. As if from a distance, he watched himself wrestle with his father, shoving him away, screaming that he couldn’t take Danny from him.

“Kyle, for god’s sake settle down. No one is taking Danny away. Stop Kyle, stop this NOW!”

Kyle felt his father slam him up against the wall, forcing his breath out of his chest in a loud gasp. His father leaned in close and spoke in the voice he used to gentle his favorite horse. “Son, look at me. Look at me.” Kyle slowly raised his eyes.

“Kyle, I love you. Do you hear me? I love you. I know that you’re gay. I know that Danny is gay. Mac and I understand Kyle. We understand. We don’t like it but we understand and we’re not going to separate you from Danny. You’re best friends Kyle, we know that. We may not understand everything else but we want to. We want to understand. Do you hear me Kyle? We don’t have to talk about this right now. Mom is coming to pick you up. Kyle? She’s bringing Danny with her. I thought, well, I thought maybe you might want to see him after everything that has happened tonight.”

“You understand?”

“Yes, son, I do, I do.”

“And you…you don’t hate me?”

Kyle watched as his words made his father flinch. With growing realization, Kyle recognized the tears in his father’s eyes. The trembling of his mouth as he desperately tried to maintain his iron-like control and failed. Kyle watched as his father began to cry, his shoulders heaving, his body trembling under Kyle’s grasp. He listened as his father gasped and cried out.

“Oh son, I could never hate you. Never. Oh Kyle. What have I done to lead you to believe that I would ever hate you? I love you son…I love you so damn much.”

His father grabbed Kyle around the shoulders and pulled him into his tight embrace, sobbing freely as he stood holding onto his son as if his life depended on it. Kyle felt his own hand come up and stroke his father’s head. He marveled at the surge of love he felt for his Fath…for his Dad. His Dad. Now it was Kyle’s turn to give comfort, to quiet his Dad’s heart wrenching sobs and to tell him over and over again, “It’s okay Dad, it’s okay. I love you too dad. I love you too.”

For what seemed like just a few short minutes, but in reality was more than an hour, Kyle and his father sat side by side and spoke quietly of how their life…their relationship would be changing, while they waited for Kyle’s mother to arrive. When Kyle heard the car pull up, he stood and looked at his father. Slowly, ever so slowly, a smile lit across Kyle’s face and was echoed on his father’s face as well. Things were going to be okay. There would be more talking, lots more talking. There would be some rough patches, some arguments along the way, but Kyle knew with a fierce certainty now that his fath…his Dad would stand by him…always.

As the front door opened and his mother swept in, Kyle barely glanced her way. His eyes were firmly fixed on the boy, the red-haired boy with the pale moonlit skin and the deep blue eyes. Danny. He stood beneath an umbrella just outside the door, smiling his expression expectant and loving. Slowly Kyle waked to meet him under the umbrella, his hands reaching out, his heart finding its way back home.

Rain…the rain fell. But Kyle was safe…safe with Danny…safe under the umbrella of Danny’s love.


message 38: by Shaz (new)

Shaz FEBRUARY 2012




message 39: by Shaz (last edited Jun 10, 2012 10:39PM) (new)

Shaz

THE FOLD
by Brett

Starlight empowered Ki, millions and millions of twinkling buds, each trying to find their place in the vast blackness of night. It was time, years of preparation had told her that much. “You only turn seventeen once,” her father would say.

Absorbing the damp chill buried within each blade of grass, she sank to her knees, her denim cut-offs providing her with enough freedom to maneuver the decline. Her fingers entwined with the earth, dirt granules finding comfort deep within the crevices of her unkempt fingernails. With what felt like the tiny legs of a thousand ants, the occasional spider and an assortment of other critters traipsing over her skin, Ki had to fight hard against the urge to run inside, lock herself in the bathroom, and wash away the grime. But even if she succumbed, she couldn’t go back in.

They wouldn’t allow her.

She reminded herself that a few mislaid bugs were the least of her problems. If she couldn’t deal with them, how would she hold up against what was coming?

The minutes ticked by as Ki counted the repetitive croaks of nearby frogs. She couldn’t see them, but judging from the faint echo that seemed to slip away almost immediately, she knew they had to be close.

At least they weren’t crawling over her like the rest of the night brigade.

Bearing through the torture of waiting, on her hands and knees, with no idea of when it would begin, seemed like more of a curse than what was actually coming.

She was wrong.

There was no giant cymbal clapped, no thunderous drum beat leading to a crescendo, nothing to signify the beginning. One second there was the quiet, chirp filled calm of nature, the next, there was them.

Ki bristled, determined to stand her ground. Her toes dug into the grass, bracing for what was coming. If she collapsed, she wouldn’t stand a chance. Weakness was devoured. Her father had drilled that little nugget into her, practically from birth.

An arm tore at her leg, trying to disturb her balance. Fingernails raked across her flesh, the coppery scent of her own blood making her lightheaded.

It was nothing, she reminded herself.

Legs thrust themselves at her, kicking her stomach, her shins, her thighs—each blow taking another bite of her breath out of her desperately pumping lungs. Her body wanted to collapse, but she kept her legs taut and willed her mind elsewhere. They were still beating her, kicking, punching, clawing, but if she could just keep her body rigid, she’d make it. They had to tire eventually.

Except she knew they wouldn’t.

“Stay strong,” her father’s voice spoke in her mind.

Easier said than done, Ki thought back.

She recoiled, her neck jolting, as a blow to the side of her jaw sent her mind into a spin. Blinking back the tears that threatened her resolve, she tried to seek out the eyes of the one who had punched her. It didn’t really matter, though. She couldn’t do anything about it. If she left her position, her body would give out.

While by no means unfit, Ki held nowhere near the physical strength of her opponents, all she had to rely on was her finely honed mental capacity.

Mind over matter, mind over matter, she repeated to herself.

Teeth clamped down on her inner thigh, sharp points digging in dangerously close to her femoral artery. She could feel her blood swell to the surface, beginning to pool around the impressions in her skin.

“Mind this, bitch,” Ki cinched her knees together, crushing the head between her legs. She heard the sickening crunch of bones grinding together, but she didn’t care if they belonged to her or her attacker.

Broken bones were the least of her worries.

Releasing her grip, the man sunk to the ground, his buzzed-short hair drawing tiny prickles over her skin as he rolled down her leg. His head struck the dirt, delivering him into his own unconsciousness.

Ki struggled to keep her teeth clenched, as a discordant burst of agony rippled up her spine. A deep keening threatened to break free, clawing at her throat with its incessant roar. But Ki held it in, her teeth chattering against trembling lips.

She was no exhibitionist for pain.

Ki screamed just about every single curse word she knew, but only in her mind. She needed to distract herself.

“Taki!” her father’s serrated voice peaked, pushing through the fray of expletives. “What would your mother think?”

“She’s dead!” Ki snapped, mentally. “You killed her.”

“Potatoes,” he said, his voice wavering in her head as he tried to brush off her retort. She didn’t know why his comeback of choice was always a vegetable, but she never questioned him on it. She had no desire to start now, either. She knew her words had gotten to him. The mental silence that followed was proof of that.

Without the distraction, her attention was immediately drawn back to the pain of the assault. It wasn’t as strong, having died down a little more with each passing moment, but it was still by no means a friendly massage.

Some fathers bought their daughters a car for their seventeenth birthday, Ki’s sent her out into the woods to get punched in the spine.

Love you, Dad.

With the white shine of the moon finally breaking through the cover of trees, Ki was able to make out the faces of those closest to her. Their attacks rolled off of her, leaving hidden bruises, seamlessly progressing, like some kind of synchronized gay bashing.

Not that that was what this was.

It was just the regular, run of the mill, happy-seventeenth-birthday bashing.

Survivors were welcomed into the fold, and the others…no one spoke of them. They ended up thrown in the wood chipper. It was the easiest way to dispose of a corpse, this side of incineration.

It made no sense to Ki. She didn’t see how getting beaten up was going to make her stronger. That was the way it went, though. Those who had passed were forbidden from discussing it with those yet to take the test. Some kind of subliminal warfare, like knowing exactly what that light was at the end of the forest would somehow defeat the purpose.

She wasn’t oblivious, though. Her father could speak within her mind. That wasn’t normal. Whatever happened to be waiting for her on the other side of tomorrow had to be something out of the ordinary.

While she had no proof, she’d always assumed her father was a werewolf, possibly the alpha. He’d take off at odd hours with a bunch of the guys from the ranch. They took cars, but in her mind, that was a cover. Running off barefooted into the woods would have been a tipoff, and her dad probably knew that.

The secrecy was ridiculous, anyone who survived their seventeenth would find out whatever was going on, and those who didn’t, they wouldn’t be around to spill it.

A face stared up into Ki’s, eyes masked with grey as the night drew out every breath of color from her surroundings. The girl had somehow crawled along the damp press of the grass without being trampled on. Splayed out on her back, with her neck arched backwards, she stared up at Ki who hovered above her.

She was beautiful, for one of them—nothing like the others. Her skin remained supple, flawless, as the moon caught her pallid cheeks. She looked as if she hadn’t seen the sun in centuries. The barest hint of pink returned to her lips before the moon’s gaze shifted.

Doused in the shadows, Ki tried to make sense of the girl. She was one of them, she had to be, but she wasn’t trying to kill her. That simple fact stumped Ki. If the girl wasn’t one, the others would have devoured her already.

“Who– No, what are you?” Ki asked.

Fingers continued digging into Ki’s flesh, searching for a way to remove her limbs, as if they would somehow screw out and detach from her body. She tried to block it out and focus on the girl. She had to know.

“I am what I am,” the girl’s lithe voice echoed within Ki’s mind.

Had she spoken aloud? Ki was too unnerved by the girl’s simplistic response to notice.

“Why aren’t you trying to kill me?”

“Would you like me to?” the girl smiled slowly, her words definitely travelling via the mental highway. She was even able to inject some of that smile into her infliction, an evident cheekiness to her voice.

Ki was saved the anguish of blood rushing to her cheeks. It had already begun residing there due to the indiscernible time she’d had her head hunched downwards. She suddenly realised what she must have looked like to the girl beneath her. She tried to suck in her cheeks, but gave up, thinking that probably only made her look more like a fish.

A short burst of laughter exited the girl’s lips.

“You are too cute,” she said, pulling herself forwards, and up onto her knees.


message 40: by Shaz (last edited Jun 10, 2012 10:39PM) (new)

Shaz Ki was left staring at an empty patch of grass. She lifted her head, catching sight of the girl’s lower back. Bare skin danced in the night air, a grey hue coating her slim body.

The girl sprung to her feet, moving with much greater ease than she should have been able to. She twisted her neck, glancing back over her right shoulder and said, “My name’s not ‘the girl’—it’s Midori.”

Ki was about to introduce herself, when Midori’s eyes locked with her own, dissolving her words, “I know who you are.” The girl dropped her gaze and turned back, disappearing into the trees, her voice lingering in Ki’s mind, “Don’t die on me, Ki.” Another one of her smiles entered Ki’s subconscious, as Midori added, “At least not tonight.”

She had no intention of it.

The girl that had come out of nowhere renewed Ki’s determination. She didn’t care about her father’s stupid little secret—lycanthropy, or whatever it was. She needed to survive the night so that she could find Midori again. The girl’s brevity had proven frustratingly appealing.

Ki’s breath seized. Staring down, her eyes widened at the sight of the man she had previously crumpled. His mouth had latched onto her left breast, teeth digging into the fabric of her bra. It was as if a fire were eating its way through her chest.

Unable to stop herself, she bellowed as blood burst free, coating the inside of her bra, and seeping through into his cracking lips. Her back arched, but it only increased the pain, his mouth weighing her down.

“Get off!” she grunted.

She shook against the tugging sensation that spread up into her shoulder blades, but without the use of her hands, she had no way of knocking him free.

The pervert let out a moan, his scraggy voice buried within her chest.

She’d had it. Her dad could stuff his family secret right up his–

“Don’t you dare give up,” Ki’s father ordered her mentally, from the safe confines of the house.

“You come out here and let him bite down on your nether regions and see how you feel,” Ki spat through her teeth, knowing he’d hear her either way.

“Tomatoes.”

That’s a fruit, Ki thought.

Lifting her elbow, Ki jabbed it into the man’s jaw. She knew it was a bad move the moment she did it. Balance broken, Ki tumbled onto her side, collapsing on the grass beside him.

“Taki, no!” roared her father, his booming voice echoing all the way from the house.

The others descended upon her, what little barrier her hunched stance had created, gone. Her hair was yanked, teeth burrowing into her calf. Ki rolled over, losing a clump of hair in the process.

Collateral damage, she considered.

Now that she’d broken the rules, the fold was closed to her. If she wanted to survive, she couldn’t simply withstand the attacks of those around her and wait for her dad to come pick her up in the morning.

If those biting and jabbing at her didn’t kill her, her father’s men would. She’d be thrown in the chipper and disposed of.

She had to escape.

Only things were never that simple. She had nowhere to go. No money of her own, no clothes—she couldn’t walk into town in just her bra and a pair of shorts, even if they weren’t bloodstained.

She needed to find Midori.

“Dad,” she pressed, kneeing one of her attackers in the crotch. The man stumbled, but he didn’t fall.

“Run,” her father insisted. “Don’t come back. If I see you again, I’ll kill you.”

Ki ducked, avoiding the lips, and accompanying teeth, of a girl with patches of skin hanging from her cheek coming her way. “I love you, Dad,” Ki said resolutely, watching the girl as she tumbled over another man in front of her.

“I’ll kill you,” her father’s voice repeated, more to himself, it seemed, than to her.

Ki left the others behind, hoping they would disperse, rather than attempt to follow her. She dashed through the trees, weaving in and out, trying to disorient any wayward trackers. Her bare feet met the abrasive underbrush, becoming torn and bloody, leaving a trail anyone worth their salt would be able to pick up on.

There was nothing she could do about it, though. Shoes didn’t fall out of the sky.

She glanced up for a second without stopping, in case that had been the cue for some magical god to come to her rescue.

It wasn’t.

She was on her own, darting through the woods with a bunch of rogues on her tail, her eyes on the ground as far the moon would let her see. The stars were pretty, but as far as light went, they were useless.

If she just collapsed where she stood, it would probably be over within the hour, her body torn to shreds, the memory of her strong at first, but then eventually dying down until it was only a passing thought on her father’s mind each night before he went to bed—just like her mother.

Death was the easy way out, though. Ki wanted to live—she just needed to make it off the ranch. She needed to find a place to hideout, gather her thoughts, and form a plan of attack.

Ki’s body ached, not just from the blood seeping from her wounds, but from everything. The weight of her family’s abandonment hurt just as much as any of the physical pain she’d been subjected to in her first few hours as a seventeen year old. Ki rolled her shoulders, small cracks sounding throughout her joints as her body tried to realign itself.

Glancing down at her thigh, Ki noticed the dried blood starting to crust over the holes the filthy rogue’s teeth had left. Trancelike, Ki picked at the scabs until they fell away. Silky wetness coated her fingertips. She lifted her hand to her face and inhaled, her eyelids blinking as a wave of nausea hit.

Shit!

Ki jolted, stopping herself.

She’d been inches away from tasting her own blood! What was wrong with her? She knew it was disgusting, yet she’d felt the pull, urging her to do it. Dropping her hand, she wiped the dark substance off on the back of her shorts.

Realizing she’d stopped moving, Ki pushed her straining legs harder, making up lost ground. She knew the woods—making it easier to maneuver in the dark—but so did her dad. And if he really was a werewolf, then she didn’t stand a chance.

The scent clung to her.

Blood.

No matter how violently her legs moved, it was still there—the coppery liqueur, begging her to taste it.

Ki doubled over, emptying her stomach onto a patch of brush. She tasted bile as it crawled up over her tongue and splattered at her feet. Just as she was about to wipe her mouth, a hand clamped over it.

She turned in the direction of the arm blocking her orifice, but couldn’t see past the dark, monotonous blur of night. Dragged backwards, she stumbled, her foot catching on a log. Panic settled in, curling around her insides, begging the bile to give it another shot.

Ki removed the hand and exhaled deeply as she turned around. Moonlight shone down on the girl in front of her. Dark brown hair, or maybe black, hung heavy against her shoulders, a stark contrast to the ice-like quality of her skin.

Realizing she’d been led to a clearing, Ki shrunk back against the tree line. They needed cover, not a wide open space.

“Midori,” she whispered.

“I told you not to die,” the girl said, her cerise lips immobile.

“I didn’t.”

Midori’s hand struck out, slapping Ki hard across the left cheek. “You’re dead. You killed yourself.”

Ki’s hand flew to her face, caressing her soon-to-be-bruised jaw. She stared at Midori’s unwavering eyes, pools of black, devoid of any insight. She was unable to comprehend what had just happened.

“Why did you do that?” Ki tried to find meaning in the girl’s face.

Midori took Ki’s hand in hers, forcing her out into the center of the wide expanse before them. What little cover they could have escaped back into was quickly deserting them.

Once in the middle of the grassy field, Midori plopped down on the ground, drawing Ki down before her. The two of them sat face to face, staring at one another. Midori blinked, whites returning to her eyes, “All you had to do what put up with the zombies chewing on you for one night.” Ki flinched. Zombies weren’t real. They were just the rogues that hated her father—homeless, deprived of food, starved to the point of cannibalism. They weren’t the freaking undead.

Midori continued, her eyes locked on Ki’s, “They would have given you the antidote in the morning. Now, you’re going to die. You’re going to become one of them. In half an hour, maybe less, you’ll be a zombie.”


message 41: by Shaz (last edited Jun 10, 2012 10:39PM) (new)

Shaz Midori had to be lying. There was simply no way that she was turning into a zombie. Things like that just didn’t happen. And if they did, Ki thought she would have heard about it. There was nothing on the news, no killing pandemic. If zombies really were taking over the world, it would have been impossible to keep it a secret.

Plus, she thought her dad would have told her.

But–

Then–

No–

The family secret.

“Zombies are real,” Ki said, reluctantly, her voice shaking, as she tested the words out, hoping Midori would somehow refute them.

“Zombies are real,” Midori said, resolutely. Her eyes remained locked on Ki’s, black, even with the silver light of the moon shining down on them. “It’s almost time,” Midori squeezed her hand, clasping with cool fingers. “How would you like me to end it?”

Ki stared at the girl, her vision taking on a new light. Colors were returning to her. A heavy teal coated Midori’s breasts, the fabric of her bra clinging to the icy swells before her. The thought hadn’t occurred to her before then, but Midori was dressed, or rather undressed, to the same extent as her—both in nothing but the shortest of shorts and their underwear.

Was someone just spitting girls out in the woods?

“End what?” Ki asked, remembering Midori had spoken.

“Your life,” she said without pause, “Or what’s left of it.”

Scrambling backwards, Ki said, “W-what?!”

“Once you die, you’ll gain new strength—and a desire to eat flesh. I need to kill you before that happens.”

The bitch was talking crazy.

‘Bitch’ wasn’t the right word for Midori, but Ki couldn’t think straight. In a few hours, she’d gone from a high school girl, living with her father and his men, out in the woods, to the unwitting victim of a zombie infestation.

Shunned and hunted, her life was a mix of contradictions.

All she’d wanted was a normal life, to meet a girl, fall in love, and just live out their lives together. But even that was too much to ask.

Her father wanted her dead. But not for being gay—for taking her hands off the stupid freaking ground. It was absurd, archaic even. Her own father would have preferred her to have a let a decaying man chew off her boob.

“I don’t want to die,” Ki choked.

“I know you don’t,” the patronizing tone rolled off Midori’s pert tongue. “But you don’t have much of a choice. Either you die a human, or you die a–”

“Zombie,” Ki snapped. “This is insane!”

“Quiet,” the whisper Midori ousted exalted a world of authority. “They track with sound.” Ki stilled, listening to the ghostlike melody of Midori’s voice, “Your eyes may be glowing now, but once you complete the change, blindness will take over.”

“Glowing, what?!” Ki spoke, her voice coming across louder than she’d intended. Midori winced at the volume, holding her colorless index finger to her pursed lips.

“Green,” Midori said, “Your eyes are green—like my name.”

“Huh?” Ki tried to hide her confusion, but failed. “My eyes have always been green.”

“Neon,” Midori raised her hand to Ki’s face.

Ki clambered away from the approaching limb and collapsed, falling onto her back. She had seen every single ridge ending and bifurcation that had been imprinted on the fingers Midori had held up.

It shouldn’t have been possible, especially not in the middle of the night.

“What’s happening to me?” Ki asked, taking the hand that Midori extended to her. “I-I”

“Your sight has been heightened,” said Midori, like that was an everyday occurrence. “It’s part of the change. Your eyes will burn out soon from the over-stimulation.”

“So you just helped that process along?” Ki sneered, “You know, shoving your hand in my face.”

Midori seemed taken aback. She sat, cross-legged, her black eyes drawn to the canopy of trees at their side. “I was just showing you that you’re different now,” she said, her voice tinged with something Ki couldn’t decipher. “That’s all.”

This distant-Midori was disturbing. Ki much preferred the in-your-face, brutal honesty version—at least that one looked at her.

Words spoke within Ki’s mind. She jumped, her shoulders bunching at the realization that her and her father were still linked. “You haven’t run far enough, Taki. I will kill you soon if you don’t keep moving.”

Why bother, Dad, she thought. I’ll be dead soon, anyway.

“Run,” he said.

What’s the point of that? You’ll feel better knowing your zombie daughter is safe, out in the world, doing the same thing to somebody else?

“Run!” he repeated, his voice more urgent this time. No vegetable—things had to be serious.

Somehow Midori must have heard the warning too. She dragged Ki to her feet and together they fled for the woods. Jogging, running, sprinting, Ki was surprised with how fast her body could move. Picking up speed, she and Midori tore through the trees. Ki needed to find the property barrier—the barbed wire fence that secured the perimeter—and breach it before her father caught up.

“They’re coming,” Midori said, effortlessly, barely a pant as she kept pace beside her.

No shit, Ki thought to herself.

Midori’s cheek twitched, but she said nothing, and kept running.

Arriving at the fence took less time than Ki expected. She put that down in part to her enhanced speed, also aided by her apparent night vision. Every rock, every twig, every single leaf—they all stood out to her, highlighted in a violent green hue. It didn’t please her, though. It meant her body was getting closer. The change was almost complete.

Half an hour—eighteen hundred seconds—had it passed already? It didn’t seem like much time, especially not when that was all you had left to live.

Borrowed time—that was what she had. At any moment, her eyes would die, and so would the rest of her. Her body would then reanimate itself, only one purpose in mind—to eat flesh.

Or was it brains?

She could ask her dad, and be like, ‘Hey Dad, so, you know, what’s my diet going to be like in two seconds? Should I suck the blood, or do I crack the skulls open like a coconut? Come on, Dad. A zombie girl’s gotta know these things.’

“Run,” the coarse voice repeated, sounding almost strained.

Did she ever have a moment’s privacy?

“No,” said Midori, “Now hurry up and give me your foot,” she linked her fingers and cupped her hands, hunching forwards slightly, “I’ll give you a boost.”

With no time to decide, Ki stepped into Midori’s waiting hands and felt a wave of vertigo crash over her. Swaying, she reached out for the top rung, gripping the wire tightly. She felt the sting immediately, her palm torn open by the jutting burrs. Leaving her hand in place, the blood dribbled down her wrist, a rich brown slicking the wire around her. With her teeth clenched, Ki swung her free leg up, over the thorn-riddled barrier, and paused, finding a way to place her foot on one of the wires without tearing it to shreds. Balancing on the seam of her shorts was another option, but she didn’t much like that either. Those burrs were getting dangerously close to an area she didn’t want to disturb.

Without a chance to think, her other leg was thrown over the fence, sending her crashing into the brush. A bundle of dissonant twigs broke her fall, their sharp and twisted ends digging into her spine.

Midori leapt over the fence, her feet planting on the other side in a single bound.

Ki was astonished, blinking her eyes intermittently, making sure she hadn’t slipped into a delusion, “Why couldn’t I have done that?”

Laughing lightly, Midori bared the hint of a smile as she whispered, “I didn’t have time to teach you.”

On the other side of the fence was her home, her family, her old life—but it was all closed off to her now. They’d mulch her body before she even got the chance to hug her younger brother goodbye.

She wondered what story they’d try and palm off on Ori. He was fifteen, he wasn’t an idiot. But her dad’s word was law.

Would a simple, ‘she was exiled, son,’ work on him?

“Forget them,” Midori’s voice entered her thoughts. “We need to keep moving.” She turned, opened her mouth and said, “You’d be better off spending your last moments deciding how you want to die. Otherwise, I’ll surprise you.”

Maybe ‘bitch’ was the right word.

“Midori,” Ki said, taking the girl’s hand, and pulling her behind a tree. “What’s the point of all of this? Either way, I’m going to die. Why are we running?”

“We’re running, because you’d rather I kill you, than your father.”

Ki leant back into the bark, further scraping her skin on the tiny notches of the tree’s outer layer. Midori’s eyes were completely black again, the whites having receded into the depths of her insides.

It was unsettling. She could have been looking anywhere, but Ki knew she was looking at her. Struck immobile, Ki watched as the girl reached out and stroked the back of her palm down Ki’s left cheek.

She winced, feeling the onset of a bruise.

“I’m sorry,” Midori said, turning her head away. “I wish you had more time.”

Ki screeched, as something inside of her snapped. Dropping to the ground, she clutched her stomach, feeling like it was about to tear open. Her legs wouldn’t move—they had turned to jelly.

“I-it’s h-h-happening,” Ki’s teeth chattered. Whimpering, she sucked in a series of short breaths, and said, “H-h-help.”

Midori sank down onto the dirt, seemingly unbothered by the twigs digging into her legs, and reached up into the left leg of her shorts. She pulled out something short, almost five inches in length, gripping it in her fingers. Flicking her wrist, a blade popped out from somewhere inside, doubling its length.

A willful stream of light trickled through the canopy, reflecting off of the silver surface. Ki couldn’t tell how sharp the switchblade was just by looking at it, but the increasingly horrid knot growing in her stomach told her she would be finding out soon enough.

Unable to move, she couldn’t fend off an attack. At least not until the change had completed. But Ki was starting to think that maybe Midori’s words had been true. She did want someone else to kill her, to spare her brother the pain of later knowing his father had done the deed.

“M-make it q-quick,” Ki wrenched her eyelids shut.

A plunge to the heart, her wrists slit, her throat severed—Ki didn’t want to know what was coming. Surprise was the best route.

Swallowing, Ki took a deep breath—one that was likely to be her last—and waited for it to come. Midori’s silence frightened her, but she couldn’t make herself open her eyes. It was taking all of her will power to stay strong, to ignore the changes going on in her body. Her eyesight would give out soon, the hunger already setting in. The blood around her smelled delicious, the hint of what lay beneath the flesh giving off an aromatic wave of pleasure.

The need was becoming too much, transforming from a wistful inclination into a hungry desire. Pain pressed in on her mind, her brain becoming a blur of primal urges.

Survive, survive, survive, it screamed at her.

Her arms swung out, batting away whatever was being thrust in her face.

She opened her eyes to nothingness. A black void had taken hold, like the lights had just switched off and she was waiting for her eyes to adjust. Except they wouldn’t. The virus had expunged every last trace of her sight.

She was blind.


message 42: by Shaz (new)

Shaz As she tried to speak, she realized she didn’t know what she wanted to say. Barely a syllable would leave her lips. She managed to mutter a groan that was indistinguishable, even to her. Her arms waved around in the dark, finding something solid in their path. She stopped, pivoted to her right, and started moving again.

Moving became much easier after the first few collisions. Her body adjusted, interpreting the world through the sounds around her. Each crunch her feet made as they plundered across the earth told her something new. While she was barely affected by the scrapes her body was inflicting upon itself, she instinctively knew what each one of them meant. Trees blocked her path, vines tripped her, twigs made her stumble—each a lesson learnt.

“Ki,” a human shouted.

She had no idea what this ‘Ki’ was, but the voice kept calling for it.

Recognizing the sweet scent of fresh blood tripped something within in her, and her body adjusted its course. She turned towards the direction of the voice and took off at a much faster pace. Leaping through the woods, she dodged the trees, having somehow memorized their path. Her bones ground together with each bounce, tightening against her joints. She needed to slow down before her body broke.

Something caught her off-guard, jolting her head backwards.

She crumpled to the ground, letting out a pained moan. She’d only felt it slightly—most of her pain receptors had disconnected—but without the ability to form words, a moan had been all she could release.

“Ki,” the voice repeated, dejectedly. “It’s too late.”

She tilted her head, glancing upwards, though her eyes couldn’t see. Groaning, she tried to reach for whoever was standing in front of her—their scent was too delicious to let escape.

“Sweetheart, I told you I’d kill you. Why did you come back?”

You called, dumbass, she thought, not knowing where the words had come from, or even what they meant.

“Ki!” the voice spoke louder.

She had no idea why the human had become so excitable. Didn’t it know she was about to eat it?

Her knees pressed down into the twigs, snapping them as she moved forwards. Her right hand wrapped around a leg standing before her. It was thick, stocky. She used it to pull herself up. Once she was back on her feet, her mouth opened wide and sought out a piece of flesh to latch onto.

A hand slapped against her face, pushing her away. “Don’t make me kill you, baby,” the deep voice said. “Not if you’re still in there.”

“Ki,” another voice spoke from behind, this one much lighter than the first. From the way its feet shifted on the leaf matter, it appeared to be smaller in stature than the other human.

“You!” the bigger human growled, exhibiting its authority. “I told you never to come back. Don’t you dare touch my daughter.”

A laugh rung out within her mind. Somehow, the other human had gotten inside of her head. “You sent your daughter out to be killed. You knew that would happen. You have no right to call yourself her father.”

“I’ll tear your throat out,” the large human snarled.

Doubling over, she clutched the sides of her head, trying to keep the laughter out. It was relentless, clawing its way inside of her mind. She groaned—this time, in actual pain.

Make it stop, she thought.

“Ki!” both humans cried simultaneously.

“I-I can give her the antidote,” the large human suggested, its voice faltering.

“Your people will overthrow you,” the other said, using its voice externally. “No one who fails the test is returned. No one,” it repeated. “They either escape undead, or you kill them.”

Kneeling down beside her, the large human took her hands within its own. She stuck her head out, trying to position her teeth close enough to the vein pulsing before her. Another set of hands locked onto her ribs from behind. They were cold, running just below the fabric her upper body was covered in.

“No,” the lighter voice chastised. “Bad zombie.”

The large human stifled a chuckle resulting in a snort. “Ki, can you hear me?” its gruff voice asked.

It appeared as if they thought she was this ‘Ki’ they kept mentioning.

She let out a short moan.

“I’m giving it to her,” the deep voice insisted. “We’ll grab Ori and leave if we have to.”

“No,” the smaller human said, releasing a hand from Ki’s ribs.

“What do you mean, ‘no’?!” the large human barked. “She’s my daughter. If I want to save her. I very well, freaking, will.”

“No,” the smaller human repeated.

Its fingers tightened against Ki’s, the nails alarmingly close to breaking her flesh.

She jerked forwards and threw her head hard against the skull of the human trying to harm her. It collapsed on the ground with a grunt, its hands slipping free of hers.

“Come on,” the human behind Ki said, helping her up.

Something was off, but it didn’t stop her from moving—the urge to survive pulled at her more than her desire to stay and eat the fallen human.

The two of them scurried, hand in hand, through the trees.

“It’s not too much farther. Just follow me.”

The small human brought Ki to an area uncharted, the vibrations shifting within her feet, displaying a distinct lack of coverage. The ground held only the soft plush of grass. Without the twigs beneath her toes, the trees to grapple, Ki had no sense of direction. She could have been headed anywhere.

She tried to pull back, to head into the safety of the woods, but the human wouldn’t let her. A tight grip drew Ki forwards until the two of them stopped and Ki felt herself being drawn to the earth, a hand goading her downwards.

The human weight shifted the grass, giving Ki a vague impression of where it lay. Reaching down, she felt its head just beneath hers. Staring blinding at what she knew to be the throat, Ki wondered if this human was offering itself to her.

As Ki leant down to take the first bite, the human said, “Wait.”

The word didn’t mean much to Ki, but she stopped to see why the human had interrupted her feeding.

A hand took hers and brought it closer. Something soft was covering the place where the human’s eyes should have been. The human said something next that Ki didn’t quite understand, “Just kiss me first, okay?”

When she didn’t move, the human drew Ki’s face in, pressing her lips against its own. Her mouth was slightly dry, making it a little messy. Their faces were joined the wrong way, Ki was sure of that. When she tried to turn around, so that their mouths wouldn’t be upside down, the human clamped its hands against her cheeks, stopping her.

It tasted good, but there was no blood, so Ki didn’t understand why.

Was she supposed to eat the human’s tongue?

She bit down lightly, testing for a response. There was no blood. The tongue simply oozed with something tasteless. Ki pulled back, breaking the seal, wishing she had eyes that worked. She wanted to see what this human bled if it wasn’t blood.

“Hold on,” the human said, reaching for something.

Ki heard a click, jolted, but then decided to remain still, hovering above the human’s face. She wanted to know what had made that noise so she could learn something new.

“Ki,” the human said, drawing its hand closer, “I’m going to cut you. If you can understand me, please don’t freak out.”

Something sharp slashed out across Ki’s throat. It didn’t cause her any pain, even so, her hands swept up to her neck, trying to cover the spill of blood spraying over the human beneath her.

She realized now that there were no friendly humans—they were all out to harm her. The human’s attack intrigued her, though. Just like when she had bitten the human’s tongue, the liquid that her body secreted held no scent. There was no desire to feed. It was as if her blood were void of nutrients.

A knee pressed down on Ki’s stomach, inciting her defenses. She kicked out at her attacker, but found nothing for her feet to latch on to. The human’s teeth dug into Ki’s neck, sucking at her blood, or whatever useless substance pumped through her veins.

Midori, she thought, not knowing where that word had come from.

“Yes,” the human’s voice invaded her mind again. “You remember me. Just stay still and it will be over soon.”

As Ki felt her insides being drained, she tried to fight off the attack, but her limbs grew increasingly heavy. Feeling empty, her body dropped flat on the grass, her face buried within the dirt. Though she knew it was coming, she didn’t want to die, or whatever it was known as when those of her kind ceased to be.

Midori, her mind repeated.

“I’m here,” the human said. “But, you have to have figured out—I’m not human.”

As she finished speaking, Ki heard Midori draw her weapon across her own skin. She rolled Ki over and pressed the abrasion to Ki’s lips. Trying to latch on, she realized she couldn’t move her jaw. Midori had to force the liquid into her throat.

With nothing left inside of her, the tasteless liquid felt like ecstasy, travelling through her body with a torrent of freedom.

“S-s-stop,” Ki sputtered, choking on the seemingly endless flow entering her mouth. She reached for her throat, feeling the skin knitting together over her slashed neck.

Trying to sit up, her back jarred as hands locked over her shoulders. “Take it easy,” Midori said, “Your body’s changing.”

Ki blinked, feeling a stinging sensation returning to her eyes. Light pooled in around her, overwhelming her distraught retinas.

“I-I can see,” Ki said.

I can speak too, she thought.

“You’re changing,” Midori repeated.

Into what?

“Into the same thing as me.”

“W-w-which i-is?” Ki stuttered, forcing her mouth into reforming words.

Ki stared into Midori’s eyes, black, with a tiny ring of white circling them. “Take a second to process it. I'm afraid that you’re not going to like it,” Midori said.

“J-j-just t-tel–”

“A vampire-zombie hybrid," blurted Midori.

Aren’t they kind of the same thing? Ki wondered. I mean, they’re both undead, and they both drink blood.

“Except that we have control of our faculties—we can talk, we can kiss, we can…” Midori paused, taking hold of Ki’s hand, and reached for her thin, teal fabric belt that had fallen to her shoulders, and draped it across their interwoven fingers. Leaning in close, with a smirk that coated her sinuous lips, Midori whispered, “And, our bits won’t rot off.”

THE END

PS. If you’re reading this next bit before reading the story above, it will probably spoil you. I was going to leave it open and ambiguous at the end of Part Four with Midori asking for the kiss, but Rach told me it needed more. So if you prefer this ending, you can thank her for that. The zombie POV was especially difficult to write from, and probably just as difficult to read. She couldn’t see, speak, or understand speech. I shuddered trying to describe everyone when she kept insisting on using gender-neutral pronouns. So thanks, Rach, for taking the time to go through, and help make it a little more understandable—much appreciated. I have to say, I’m really loving this month’s pic, it was so much fun to work with. Can’t wait for everyone else’s stories!


message 43: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

OBLIVIOUS
by Kaje

The first time I saw her, I wanted to be her. We were both twelve, and in seventh grade. A new school for Junior High, new people and hopefully a new start. I was going to be cool. I was going to be... well, not popular, but normal. Middle-of-the-pack. Hell, I'd settle for invisible. And then there she was.

She sailed into the lunch room that first day with her dark blond hair curling around her face, her green eyes laughing and her head high. She wiggled her fingers in response to a general wave from the girls at the popular kids table and then she ignored them, and went to sit by this geeky boy named Steven.

I couldn't take my eyes off her. She lit up the room. The awkward boy I'd dubbed Silent Steven last year in grade school said, “Adara! You're in this school! I didn't know that.” And I didn't think I'd ever seen him smile like that.

She nodded. “Home for the foreseeable future. You're stuck with me, boy.”

Steven laughed. “Thank God for that. Sit, eat, tell me about your summer.”

She plopped her lunch on his table and pulled out a soda in an actual glass bottle. She tipped it up and drank, and looking at her, the way her throat made that line as she enjoyed the first sip, I could almost taste the cool liquid in my own mouth. She set it down and nudged Steven. “You first. What have you been up to since I moved away?”

Steven's response was too soft to hear, but she paid careful attention, her head tilted and her eyes only on him. And he talked and laughed with her, as she unwrapped a giant sandwich and made a game of trying to get a bite around it. The popular kids had turned away, but the occasional glance they threw her way looked envious, not disdainful. Her shirt was the perfect blue, her jeans fit just right, the rings on her fingers caught the light. And I wanted to be her, with an ache that almost took my breath away. I sat there, lunch forgotten, watching out of the corner of my eye, until the bell rang.

She stood up, crumpled her paper bag decisively and gave Steven a grin. And then she sailed out the door, hitting the garbage can with a paper-bag rim shot from twenty feet away. The cafeteria was a dimmer place without her. I overheard one of the cheerleaders ask another, “Who was that?”

“Adara Delaney. I guess she's been living in Paris for two years and she just moved back here. I used to know her in grade school too.”

Adara Delany. Even her name was perfect. It rolled off my tongue in a way that Candice Gregg never would. For months after that, in secret, I wrote little poems and did sketches and paintings and signed them all “Adara D.” They lived in a drawer in my bedroom. Under the hand-knit sweaters from Grandma Gregg that even Mom didn't insist I should wear, my dreams were safe and secret.


Four years later, I didn't want to be Adara any more. I just wanted her.

The gap between twelve and sixteen is practically an ocean. Standing on one shore you can't even see the other. At twelve I was a dreamer and a nerd, with the goal of one day earning fame with my art. I envisioned standing in a gallery at the opening of my one woman show, with my supportive husband at my side. The guy may have been a bit nebulous but he was there, a rock to lean on as I spread my creative wings.

Until one day I realized that while I was setting up that cardboard cut-out of a guy in my careful plans, there was someone quite different in my mind. Someone who appeared as I lay at night, drowsy and brushing the edges of sleep. Someone who was softer and rounder and whose cheek was silk against my own. A light sweet voice and a scent not like musk but like wildflowers. I was sitting in class, doodling because we were discussing the correct use of apostrophes, again. Adara was three seats over beside the window, gazing out and looking as bored as I was. My pencil slid over the paper, limning the curve of her cheek, the line of her neck, the way the shadows pooled in the little hollow under her collarbone. And suddenly it felt like someone had dumped hot water over me. And I knew.

That sketch never was finished. In fact, I ripped it into tiny little shreds and flushed it down the toilet in the school bathroom. I leaned against the side of the stall, holding back tears. Like I wasn't weird enough. Like the fact that I could define the word somnambulism and cared who Diego Valasquez was didn't already set me apart. This was not who I had planned to be.

But a small part of me was glad too. That little bit of me that had worried and fussed, and wondered if I was asexual because I could care less about Taylor Lautner's abs or Alex Pettyfer's cheekbones. That bit of me was feeling a soft rolling heat of anticipation. And so I stood there and cried and wanted and tried not to think about anything.

It was a good thing we had no exams that day. I'd have totally flunked. I went home and spent hours online, looking at guys, looking at girls, Googling GLBT and lesbian. And bisexual, because completely giving up that cardboard husband felt like cutting loose on the string of my life's balloon. The sky was big and empty and cold when you got high enough. I wasn't ready. I wasn't sure enough. Except I was.

The day of the spring field trip was sunny and warm. It was a rare thing for us to have an outdoor field trip in high school. Or any kind of field trip. Gone were the days of taking the whole class to dig for fossils or explore the nature preserve. But the Biology teacher had convinced the school that a day spent learning about identifying invasive species and doing our public service by preserving the woods and wetlands was worth allowing us to miss three other classes. Everyone was signed up by the end of the first day.

I sat beside Greg on the bus. It was purely by default. When I got on the yellow bus, there were three open seats left. One was next to Becca, but she defended it with a glare, waiting for her friend Shannon who was last in line. One was beside Toby and I'm sorry. It's dumb and shallow and I of all people should be better than this, but I hate sitting next to him. He's so fat he takes up two thirds of the seat and he sweats and... I know it's not nice of me and I should try to be friends with him. And sometimes when I see him alone at lunch I think I will go over and strike up a conversation. But then he shoves a big bite in his mouth and chews, and I just don't. Anyway, that left Greg.

“Hey, Candice.” He moved over to give me more than half the seat.

“Thanks.” I dropped onto the cracked green vinyl, trying to spot where Adara was sitting. There, two rows up.

“So this could be okay, right? I mean a field trip beats sitting in class any day.”

“Sure. I guess so.”

“And it's in a good cause, to keep the preserve healthy. And we'll learn stuff.”

I glanced at him and then turned to look up the aisle. “Yeah, it's a good cause.”

Greg kind of likes me. At least, I think he does. He's always nice to me and if we happen to be somewhere together he asks what I'm drawing or some question about class. I used to think we might go out on a date, one day. But even though he's not bad looking, except for the really short hair, I just never could take an imaginary date as far as the first kiss. We'd talk and have a burger and then... That was one of the things that had me worried, back before I realized that just the sight of Adara's back could make me feel like I'd walked too close to the sun. So I sat by Greg, and answered his awkward questions with even more awkward short answers. And instead of looking at him, I let my eyes wander, so that every now and then they could slide over to where Adara and Steven sat laughing two rows ahead. Adara's hair caught gold lights in the sun. It seemed like the sunshine always found her.

We got off the bus and stood around, waiting for the park ranger to do his presentation. Greg wandered away from me after a while. I felt bad about that. It's not like I have a lot of friends. It would be cool if he wanted to be friends. But when we're together I get this feeling like... like he wants more. His eyes track down to my boobs, even though I don't have much. (My chest makes me think about that joke where a lingerie salesman asks the guy shopping for a gift to describe his wife's size – cantaloupes, oranges, apples, eggs... and he goes, “yeah, fried!” That's me.) Anyway, I don't want to go there with Greg. So it's good that he found his buddies to hang out with instead.

The naturalist was kind of cool. He showed us what to look for and what to avoid (poison ivy!) Then he handed out gloves and clippers and set us to work. We were supposed to work in pairs. In a moment of insane penance, I went and stood next to Toby so we were 'accidentally' partnered together. It worked out okay. He didn't like bending over and cutting stuff, so I had him just identify the invasive plants, and then hold onto them while I knelt down and cut them off at the ground.

It was mostly buckthorn, with its glossy leaves and wooden stems. I was glad of the gloves, but even so those damned bushes don't have 'thorn' in their name for nothing. After half an hour, I dropped the latest victim of my clippers into the growing brush pile and pulled off a glove to suck on my thumb. I looked around at the other guys hard at work, scanning the area for no particular reason. Yeah, right – there she was over beyond the ditch, working with Steven as usual. I noticed that Toby was flushed and sweaty, leaning against the side of the bus and kind of looking past me as I slid my glove back on.

“Hey,” I said. “Are you okay?”

“Sure.” Toby's voice was higher than you'd expect from a guy his size, but even so it seemed a bit thin. “Just hot is all.”

“You should take a break,” I suggested. “Sit in the shade for a bit. I don't mind.”

“We're supposed to stay in pairs.”

I glanced around. “The preserve is what, two square miles? I somehow doubt I'll get lost.”

“I mean, I can do my share.”

I shrugged. “It is pretty hot. I'm used to it, because my dad doesn't believe in air conditioning.” That much at least was the truth. Until we could afford solar panels to power it, our house would swelter without the energy-sucking modern conveniences. “Why don't you just take a break. Then if you feel better before the lunch break you can come find me.”

I headed toward the path without looking back. I didn't really want Toby along, puffing and sweating and making me worried he'd have a stroke or something. The day was warm but not that bad, and the quiet of the woods beckoned to me.

I decided to find a good private spot, make a secondary brush pile, and then haul things back to base later. There was no shortage of buckthorn. I kept walking, until the sound of voices had faded behind me. The woods were quiet. The nature preserve was small enough that the occasional distant buzz of traffic intruded, but it was muted and could be ignored. For a moment I could pretend none of that existed. It was just me and the oak trees and poplars and the whisper of a breeze. There were birds in the underbrush, darting flashes of bright-crowned kinglets that tantalized me with glimpses of dark eyes and golden feathers. Blossoms still clung to the blackberry vines, marking the tangles of thorny brambles. Here and there, where sunlight penetrated the leaves, the ubiquitous dandelions raised yellow heads on long milky stalks.

******


message 44: by Shaz (new)

Shaz I picked a spot that was as good as any, and started looking for the oval leaves and sparsely-pronged trunks of the buckthorn. It was no problem to find some. In fact there was one that had somehow been missed in previous efforts and become a full-fledged tree. I dug in my pocket for an orange plastic ribbon and marked it for the team with the saw to cut down later. Around it, the small shoots of new buckthorns from fallen seeds sprang upward, spindly and fast growing. Like obnoxious teenage boys. Ha ha – I have clippers, my pretties and I know how to use them.

I had a pretty good pile of dead buckthorn by the time I decided to take a break from wrestling with bristly shrubs. I pulled off my gloves and waved my sweaty hands in the air to cool them. There was a spot on my thumb that was threatening to become a blister. I looked more closely and then saw my watch. It was ten past noon. Somehow I must have missed hearing the recall whistle for lunch break. I knew I should head back. My hummus and cucumber sandwich was waiting in the cooler. But my dad's idea of good nutrition – on whole grain bread of course – couldn't compete with a school day alone in the woods. I sat down on a patch of grass, wrapped my arms around my knees and just looked at the trees.

“Figured I'd find you staring at something.”

I jolted and turned. Adara stood on the path, a paper bag in each hand. “Didn't you hear the whistle?”

“I guess not,” I admitted.

“Oblivious.” There was an odd, friendly note in her voice as she said it. “Anyway, I grabbed your lunch for you, so the teachers won't be worrying about why you didn't come get it.” She held it out to me.

I scrambled to my feet. “Thanks! But you didn't have to do that. And... how did you find me?”

“Oh, I noticed you heading this way after you ditched poor Toby. So when Steven and I broke for lunch and you didn't show, I figured you'd found a flower or a boulder or a grassy knoll or something else to draw.”

I raised my empty hands. “No pencil or paper.”

“To draw in your head, then. You know you're always looking at things like they're pictures just waiting to happen.”

I did, but how did she know that? I walked the three steps to meet her and took my lunch from her outstretched hand. “Thank you.”

“No problem.” She glanced around. “Hey, we're close to my favorite place in this whole park. You want to see it?”

I'd have gone to look at a garbage dump if she'd asked me, but... “Where's Steven?”

She wrinkled her nose. “The ranger was handing out unlimited free chips and pop. He's a boy. Three guesses.”

“Where the food is.”

“Bingo. Come on, Candy.”

I hated being called Candy. I'd pretty much made everyone stick to Candice, all the time. I loved it when Adara said it. I followed her down the path. About a hundred yards on, she took a small fork to the right. The path was closed by a gate, held shut by a loop of chain and a padlock.

“Oh, that's too bad,” I said.

Adara grinned at me. “Have a little faith, girl.” She put one foot on the bottom rung of the gate, leaned on it, and tugged the loop of chain upward. The gate dipped under her weight, the chain lifted and slid up over the post. “Come on.” She pulled the gate open just enough for us to slip through, and then closed it behind us. “This way.”

The path turned again, and suddenly we were in a clearing. The ground underfoot was flat slabs of rock, like the bones of the earth, exposed through the soil in tilted angles of sun-warmed slate. Around the edge of the glade, low juniper and the boughs of evergreens formed a screening wall, dark green and impenetrable.

Adara whirled in a cheerful pirouette. “You like? I live near here, and this is my favorite place to come and just hang out.”

It was perfect. It was beautiful and secluded and quiet and romantic. I said, “Do you come here with Steven a lot?”

Adara froze in mid whirl. I bit my lip hard. It was like that moment in the fairy tales where the true princess has pearls drop from her lips whenever she speaks, and then the ugly step sister has toads. My warty question hopped around between us. I dropped my eyes to the dark rock underfoot.

Adara came closer. “You aren't jealous of Steven?”

I didn't look up. I wanted to say no. I wanted to say yes. I kept my toad words behind my firmly closed teeth.

Adara laughed and startled me into looking at her face. “You are jealous.” A slow smile curved her lips. “Holy hell, Candy, you're more out of it than I thought.”

I didn't like being called out of it. I did like the way she stood there with her green eyes staring into mine. I freaking loved the way her lower lip tucked in at the corners, and made the dimple appear on her left cheek.

“Is that why you always walk away from me? Because you think Steven and I are a couple?”

I shrugged. I walked away from her before she could walk away from me, mostly. We were friendly, we chatted now and then. I said hi in the halls. I complimented her clothes (not too often) and laughed at her jokes (not too loudly) and shared complaints about the teachers or the cafeteria food. And I walked away before she could get tired of me. So I would never see that Oh, my God, her again look on Adara's face.

She shook her head at me, an over-dramatic expression of sorrow on her face. “Candy, Candy. You must be the only person in the school who doesn't know Steven is gay.”

I think I made a sound, like the grunt you give when you walk into the corner of a table with your hip. My brain shut off. I blinked at her.

Adara said, “You know what your problem is?”

I'm an idiot?

“You're too one-dimensional. You look at everything, you see the surface. And that's not bad. You see it pretty perfectly. Your drawings are amazing. But sometimes you have to turn off those eyes and feel.”

I said, “You can't turn off your eyes.”

“Close them then. Or better yet...” She set her lunch bag down on the rock and reached to her waist. She had a long thin sash of teal green in place of a belt. As she slowly drew it through the loops of her jeans I noticed it matched my cami almost exactly. Coincidence? Fate? Had she somehow psychically known what I was going to wear?

She twisted the fabric in her hands. “Do you trust me, Candy? Really trust me?”

Did I believe in gravity? “Yes.”

“Okay. Then, I'm going to blindfold you, okay? I'll be right here. I just want you to close your artist's eyes and feel things for once.”

“Okay.” I think I whispered it.

Adara came in close to me. I dropped my eyes. She wore a red cami under her black sweater, and her breasts made two perfect curves above the lace edge... The softness of fabric, warm from her body, touched with her floral scent, slid across my face. I closed my eyes. She eased the blindfold in place and knotted it gently. “That okay?”

“That's fine.”

“Then listen.” Adara's fingers slid over mine and clasped lightly. “Listen first. Hear those crickets? There's a chickadee in the trees to the left. I think a train is coming, a long way off. Hear that?”

“Yes.”

“This way. Sit down.” She tugged on my hand and guided me down onto the rocks. They were hard and rough under me as I sat obediently. “In fact, lie down.” Adara's hands eased me onto my back. I stretched out cautiously.

“Now feel.” Her voice was a honeyed whisper. “Feel the stone under your hands. Feel the sun on your face. Can you feel it?”

“Yes.”

“And now?”

It was cooler. The breeze touched my cheek but the warmth had faded, as if a shadow blocked the sun. Something soft brushed over my forehead, and then across my eyebrow. “And now?”

“Your hair...”

“Very good.” I heard her change position. She might be between me and the sun, but there were other kinds of heat. My skin was burning, sensitized and waiting. She shook her head, so her hair slipped across my forearm and wrist. I closed my fists so I wouldn't reach for it.

“Candy,” Adara said softly. “What do you feel?”

My mouth was dry. I was breathing fast. I licked my lips, wishing I could see her eyes through the blindfold, glad I could see nothing at all. There was a rustling again, as she moved closer. I could smell the scent she used, wildflowers and vanilla sweetness. I could hear her breathing slow and easy. Her hair moved lower, slipping over my neck and shoulder. I felt the heat of her nearness, heard the sudden hitch of her breath. And time stopped in that moment, before her lips brushed mine.


message 45: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

PETRA
by Samantha

Petra hovered over the girl, taking in her alabaster skin and raven colored hair. She was beautiful, as beautiful as the last girl she’d known. The thought made Petra’s aura dim a little. It had been so long since she’d met the girl who gave her the thimble, which she’d later found out was really a kiss.

She frowned, lowering herself to the ground and trying to remember that girl’s name. Time passed so differently in her land, and though she remembered the way the girl made her feel, she couldn’t remember her name.

“Petra?” the other girl asked. “Are you still there?”

“Yes.” Petra nodded, though of course the girl couldn’t see it with the blind fold on. “One more minute.” She motioned to Tryst, and the fairy struck the match. He flitted from candle to candle, lighting a half dozen before dropping the still burning match to the dirt floor.

Petra stepped on the match, making sure it wouldn’t set anything else on fire. Her bare foot barely felt the sting. A moment later the preparations were done, and she turned to face the bed. “Okay, you can take off the blindfold.

Eve sat up, pulling the green cloth from her eyes and taking in the room. Flickering candles lined the walls of the cave, providing the only light other than the moonlight that shone through the hole in the ceiling. It really was the perfect place to lay and watch the stars, stars that were so much brighter than any Eve had ever seen back in New York City.

“It’s beautiful,” Eve breathed. Petra’s nervous look shifted into a wide smile at the praise, her green eyes flashing in the light. Eve wanted to push the tangle of red hair from Petra’s face and pull her close, but she still wasn’t sure how the girl would react.

There was something so compelling about the girl, but also something so innocent. She wore the ragged remains of jeans and a t-shirt and let her hair grow wild, but she was still the most beautiful girl Eve had ever seen. When she first woke up to find Petra sitting in her window, she’d thought she was dreaming.

*****

Eve stirred in the darkness of her bedroom, and for the first time since she’d begun watching her, Petra didn’t leave. Instead, she sat in the window, feeling the warm summer air on her back and listening to the sounds of the city rushing by below. It was always so loud in the city, so much different from Neverland, so much different from the first time she’d traveled to this world and met a girl. Eve sat up, but she didn’t notice Petra for a moment. She stretched, oblivious to the other girl watching her.

“Hello,” Petra said. The girl turned to her in surprise. For a moment she looked scared, and then confused.

“Who are you?” Eve asked, frowning.

“Petra.”

“Am I dreaming?” Eve asked.

“If you are, then I am as well,” Petra replied with a smile. “And if so, than I’ve been dreaming for three nights now, watching you as you sleep.”

Eve climbed out of bed, her tank top and shorts a far cry from the night dress the other girl had worn, but Petra knew that was the style now; she’d visited this world a few times over the years. This was the first time she’d been drawn to a window again. Nervous, Petra rose from the window, floating backwards into the night. She wondered if she’d made a mistake.

“You’re flying,” Eve said in obvious wonderment. “I must be dreaming,” she added, muttering it to herself.

“But you’re not,” Petra said, flying through the window and alighting in front of the other girl, braver now as Eve showed the first signs of disbelief. She stepped close and took the girl’s hand pressing it to her chest.

Eve let out a soft gasp of air as she felt Petra’s heart beating below her hand. Her hand looked so white against the girl’s tan skin and the contact made her senses tingle. It felt so real, but Eve was sure it was a dream; beautiful girls didn’t fly into her room in real life. She ran her hand up and behind the girl’s neck, twisting her fingers into her hair. If it was a dream, she might as well have fun with it.

“Why have you been watching me?” Eve asked, her voice low and teasing.

“Because I want you to come away with me,” Petra answered, she floated away and let out a quick sharp whistle. The biggest firefly Eve had ever seen flew into the room, but when it sat on Petra’s shoulder Eve saw it was a man.

“A fairy?” Eve asked, too thrilled to be sad that Petra had pulled away before she could kiss her.

“His name is Tryst,” Petra smiled. “If you let him dust you, then you can come away with me.”

“Where are we going?” Eve asked. Her heart thudded in her chest as she began to believe this all could be real.

“Neverland, of course,” Petra said. “It’s been a very long time since there was another girl there with me. I’ve been lonely.” She pouted, a large exaggerated pout like a child. “Please come with me.”

“Okay,” Eve said softly, unsure what else she could say.

“Wonderful.” Petra smiled and flew almost to the ceiling. Tryst dropped from her shoulder and began to fly in circles around Eve, leaving a trail of bright sparkling dust that settled warmly to Eve’s skin.

Eve had to shut her eyes, dazzled by the dust, and when she opened them again, Petra was standing by the window. She held out her hand. Still feeling dazed, Eve went to her and took her hand. Her skin felt as warm and comforting as sunshine. Petra stepped out of the window and onto the small ledge that ran around the building, her toes curling over the edge. She tugged Eve out beside her. When Eve faltered, Petra put an arm around her waist.

“Just hold on tight, and follow me til morning,” Petra said. Her voice was a mere whisper pressed close to Eve’s ear and the tickle of her breath sent shivers through her. Eve nodded, and together they stepped from the ledge, falling only a moment before they were flying.

*****

“So you like it?” Petra asked, staring around the room with Eve. “I wanted to do something special for you.”

“I love it,” Eve assured her. They stood close together in the middle of the room, and Eve took Petra’s warm hands in hers, once again savoring the warmth. “Thank you.”

Petra nodded, pulling her hands free and placing them tentatively on Eve’s waist. A musical sort of laughter came from across the room, and they both turned to see Tryst flying from the ceiling of the cave, his glow disappearing into darkness.

“He doesn’t understand,” Petra said.

“Doesn’t understand what?” Eve asked, pressing her hands to Petra’s waist as well.

With no explanation, Petra leaned forward, her lips brushing quickly against Eve’s before she pulled back and stepped away. “I’m sorry,” Petra said, shaking her head. “I shouldn’t have. Shouldn’t have brought you here.” She began to blow out the candles.

Eve caught Petra by the wrist, pulling her back and wrapping her arms around her waist. Her lips found Petra’s and this time neither of them pulled away. Warmth filled Eve as their bodies pressed together and sunshine seemed to envelop her.

The kiss went on for longer than any Eve remembered. She felt like she was a part of Petra, holding her tight as she pressed closer and closer until she couldn’t feel anything but Petra. That was fine, she never wanted to feel anything but this beautiful warmth around her.

Petra held Eve close, kissing her and taking in the energy as it flowed out of Eve and into her. She wanted to stop, she wanted this girl to be different, but she couldn’t. Instead, she tugged Eve closer, almost gasping as their bare arms tangled together and the energy swam more quickly into her. Eve’s movements were a frenzy of need for a few moments and then they slowed to nothing, her body growing cold in Petra’s arms.

Petra lowered Eve to the bed of dried grass where she had been lying only moments before. Her skin was paler than ever and colder than the stone around them, but she smiled as she stared lifelessly up at the stars above. Petra sat back on her heels, covering her mouth and letting out a sob the rocked her whole body.

“I’m sorry.” Petra shook her head. “I shouldn’t have.” She wiped at the tears that fell from her eyes, knowing this was how it had to be. She stood, swallowing hard. “I’m sorry,” she said again, her voice barely more than a whisper.

Petra took a candle, lighting the grass around Eve’s body. She stepped back, watching until she was sure the fire wouldn’t die. She flew up through the hole in the ceiling, smoke billowing up around her. When she reached the clean night air, Tryst was hovering there waiting for her. He smiled; he never understood how hard this was for her. Together they flew off toward the camp where the lost boys waited to find out if Petra had secured another hundred years of life for them.

As they flew, Petra thought of the other girl with a sad smile. Wendy, that had been her name.

The End


message 46: by Shaz (new)

Shaz

UNTITLED
by K

The day was oppressively warm, with no breeze the air felt heavy. As had become habit since we moved here a couple of weeks ago, I turned up my nose at the breakfast offered to me and wandered out into the garden. I sat in a patch of sunshine on the patio and groomed my long ginger fur until I was sure the rest of the family had stopped watching me, before slipping quietly through the hole in the hedge.

By sight and scent, I found Terri where I expected her to be; sitting on the ground, her back against the sun warmed bark of the old apple tree, the e-reader balanced on her knees. She didn’t notice me as I silently stalked across the lawn, my chest lowering to the grass as I moved. I waited, my tail thrashing from side to side, then, with a chirruping “meow”, pounced playfully on the purple nailed toes that peeped out the end of her sandals.

She laughed as I rubbed my head around her ankles, then reaching forwards she pulled me onto her lap, where I continued to nuzzle her hands as she scratched around my ears.

“Good morning Cat,” she said warmly as she bent down to kiss my head. I nuzzled against her chin, breathing in her scent even as I marked her with mine.

It was too warm for us to settle into our usual positions, where I would curl up on her lap beneath the e-reader with her hand stroking gently along my back. Instead I slipped off her knees to one side, lying full length alongside but not quite touching her leg on the warm grass; unconsciously her hand continued to stroke the soft white fur on my belly as I purred us both to sleep.

The first rumble of thunder woke us, the air charged with static that made the fur rise along my back. It was still just as warm but the sky was no longer blue, the sun hidden by heavy black clouds. Rising swiftly Terri scooped me up and cradled me in her arms as she ran for the back door of her house. I could feel her heartbeat hammering in her chest; she didn’t like storms anymore than I did. As she reached for the door handle the thunder rolled again, in my head I started to count, just ten seconds later the dark sky was split suddenly by a blot of lightening. The storm was approaching quickly.

The door wouldn’t open. Terri hammered on it with her knuckles, but no one came. With me still held fast in her arms, she turned away and started to run towards the far end of the garden and the shelter of the wooden summer house. Scrambling up the shallow steps we tumbled through the open door as the first fat drops of rain began to fall.

Her hands were shaking as she lowered me carefully to the ground. I purred as loudly as I could as I wound my way around her ankles, trying to relieve her anxiety as well as my own with the continued touch and sound.

The storm was getting closer, the gap between thunder and lightning growing ever shorter.

“I can do this,” Terri’s tone was determined but I wasn’t sure if she was talking to me or to herself. I sat and watched as she lifted the lid of the wooden storage box and pulled out an old picnic blanket which she spread on the wooden floor.

Sinking down cross legged onto the blanket, she put out her hand towards me, rubbing her fingers together.

“Come over here Cat,” I could hear the slight tremor in her voice as she spoke. Slowly I moved towards her. As I did the thunder cracked directly over head, followed instantly by a flash of lightening which for a second illuminated the summerhouse brightly. The rain began to fall harder, sounding like a heavy drum beat on the wooden roof. Instinctively my ears flattened out sideways, my tail hung low, twitching slightly, I ran towards her.

She pulled me onto her lap and I snuggled into the gap between her crossed legs seeking both warmth and reassurance. Although her hands caressed my head I couldn’t bring myself to purr, the ability crippled by my own anxiety. Together we sat and silently watched the storm raging outside the window.

After a while Terri began to fidget, her hands leaving my back and rubbing her temples, I mewed an enquiry at her.

“Headache,” she said shortly. Lifting me from her lap she slowly removed the green shirt she’d been wearing and rolled it up into a strip which she tied over her eyes to block out the sight of the lightening flashes, that still split the sky at regular intervals. Slowly she lowered herself onto her back on the blanket and lay still.

I watched over her as she slept. I felt some sort of connection, an attraction, to this girl; I had since the moment I first found my way through the hole in the hedge.

Maybe it was because neither of us were particularly happy. Hells I was downright sulking at being forced to leave the home and school I loved just because my father’s firm had decided relocate him. I’d pleaded that as I was seventeen I was grown up enough to be allowed to stay with friends to do my final year at school, but no, it was deemed to dangerous for me to be away from my family.

I wasn’t the only one unhappy with the move. The house we’d moved into had been the home of Terri’s, until then, inseparable best friend, the person with whom the hole in the hedge had been created. She was angry and missing him badly, taking out her frustration by engaging in bitter arguments with her parents which invariably resulted in her being sent out to sit in the garden and calm down.

Over the last two week’s we’d spent most days together, with me curled up on her lap whilst she read, or talked. She’d told me of her loneliness at missing her friend, of her feelings towards her family, of past girlfriends and boyfriends, of hopes and dreams. As she’d talked I kneaded her leg with my paws, purring gently, trying to sooth. Part of me wanted to change form, to be able to put my arms around her and hold her, to touch her with a hand rather than a paw.

I watched her breathing become slow and even, as she fell into a deeper sleep. The longing to touch her grew within me until the desire was impossible to ignore.

Carefully moving away from her I gathered my focus inwardly and formed an image of myself in my mind, before slowly beginning to change. The change isn’t a painful process, but holding the image you are moving into is both difficult and tiring. It was some minutes before the change was complete and I came to, lying on the wooden floor panting slightly.

My hair fell untidily round my head and I fought the automatic feline reaction to lick my hand and use it to smooth the hair into place as though I was grooming. Slowly I rose to my feet and as quietly as I could began to move towards Terri.

Crouching down beside her I noticed the differences between my human and feline senses. Her skin was much paler than I remembered, almost a porcelain white. Her scent was still as attractive, but much softer. As I slowly leant over her my hair fell forwards onto her chest, her lips curled into a smile but she remained still. I froze waiting to see what she would do.

“Hello Cat,” she said warmly, her smile widening. Her breath felt warm against my face.

“You knew?” I asked softly as I hung over her still unmoving.

Still smiling she nodded. Her hand, which had been resting beside her head reached up towards my face and gently stroked my cheek in almost a reflection of the gesture she’d made when I was in feline form. Her hands were soft, warmer on skin than on fur.

“Do you want to kiss me?” she asked

“Yes,” I purred as I moved towards her.


message 47: by Shaz (last edited Jun 10, 2012 11:08PM) (new)

Shaz VALENTINE'S DAY 2012

Hell & Love Hearts

There are some things that just don’t mix with the pink and fluffy associated with St Valentine’s day .. like, Satan, demons, or Death himself… but, what if, just this year, they did....

What happened when the Devil got hit by one of cupid’s arrows? Who did send Death that box of expensive chocolates? Why is Mephistopheles blushing every time a certain young imp squeaks excitedly about the card he’s received? Can a bunch of black roses grown in the back corner of hell tempt a human to love a demon, or will the demon be the one taking the plunge into humanity?

The challenge, should you choose to accept it… write a short story, with an LGBT theme, to fit the title.


message 48: by Shaz (last edited Jun 10, 2012 11:09PM) (new)

Shaz VALENTINE'S DAY 2012
Hell & Love Hearts


UNTITLED
by K

The concert was nearly ending as Murmur slipped into the back of the auditorium and took a seat in the back row; the soft snick of the door closing drowned out by the string quartet playing on the spotlight flooded stage. Technically, as a demon, he could have just materialised in his seat, concealing his arrival from the rest of the audience; but somehow that seemed, well, wrong. As it was, no one noticed; or at least almost no one.

In the darker half of the stage, sitting on the bench seat, Luke slouched over the keyboard of the grand piano. Long blond hair fell around his face, almost a shield between himself and the audience. As Murmur took his seat Luke jerked upright, his head snapping round. Vivid blue eyes scoured the audience until they focused on a fixed point. Although he couldn’t see to the back of the auditorium, he could feel the presence of his mysterious watcher; his muse. A slow smile crept across his face and he sighed softly before returning his focus to the instrument in front of him.

That sigh sounded like a gentle breeze in the demon’s sensitive ear and to his horror he felt a slow warmth grow from within, spreading through him and heating his cheeks. He shook his head gently as if trying to clear it, this wasn’t right, demons didn’t blush. For Devil’s sake, he was one of Satan’s minions, a Count of Hell. He’d stalked the depths of the netherworld and the surface of the Earth gathering souls for his master for centuries. He wasn’t some delicate warm blooded human, run by heart and hormones.

Even as he told himself this Murmur knew that he lied. He had been drawn to his charge from the start. Instructed to bring over the talented musician’s soul for his master what had started out as simply another job had slowly grown into something else, something different, something he’d never had before.

The audience around him burst into applause, startling him from his thoughts. Glancing at the stage he saw the members of the string quartet rise and bow to the audience before filing off the stage. A tuxedo clad MC crossed the stage and took the spotlight.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he announced formally. “For our final piece this evening I am pleased to introduce you to our solo pianist, Mr Luke Shaw, an extremely talented twenty year old who this evening will give the first public performance of his debut composition, In Dreams.”

The spotlight swept across the stage, the filter softening from white to a golden yellow as it settled over the piano, Luke’s hands now poised over the keys waiting to begin.

The first few bars of the piece were fast paced and strangely discordant, almost jarring. Underlying the jangling melody, a series of notes in a minor key, repeating again and again; like the stuttering heartbeat of a human in fear.

Ignoring the startled looks from others in the audience, Murmur closed his eyes and smiled, in dreams indeed; in nightmares.

Luke had woken screaming, tangled in the bed clothes and drenched in sweat for almost a month after Murmur had first appeared to him in his dreams. In these nightmares, Murmur had hidden Luke’s musical gift, locking it away deep inside Luke’s mind where it couldn’t be reached. Pale and listless, unable to hear the music that had been the heartbeat of his life, Luke had taken to wandering the streets in the dark, exhausted yet too scared to fall asleep.

With Luke no longer able to use his musical gift, Murmur should have moved in with his offer, the price that his master demanded; the return of Luke’s musical talents for the duration of his life, in exchange for his soul and an afterlife in hell. It never happened.

Echoing around the auditorium the music began to soften, the thrumming heartbeat slowing; the nightmare easing.

One night, lost in the nightmare and unable to focus, Luke had stepped off the pavement into the path of a speeding car. Following him as usual, Murmur had watched as the vehicle raced towards Luke, the icy grip of a fear that he didn’t fully understand overtaking him. He had acted without thinking. Changing instantly to his true form and launching himself between the frail human and approaching death he had snatched him from in front of the car and with a giant sweep of his wings lifted him from harm's way.

Cradling Luke’s inert body in his arms Murmur had been overcome with a strange unfamiliar feeling, the need to protect the young human. As they flew over the city Luke’s blue eyes opened and stared directly into his; and he’d fallen.

Yet again the music changed, becoming even lighter than before and growing sweeter. A lullaby.

In the days and weeks after the rescue, risking the wrath of his master, Murmur didn’t leave Luke’ side as gradually he released him from the nightmare he’d created. Slowly as his gift resurfaced from where it was hidden the bond between the demon and the young man grew. Murmur knew he should leave, but each time he tried to pull away, to return to his fate in the netherworld, Luke would play again and, like a fish in a net, he was trapped.

Satan raged from the pits of hell, demanding Murmur’s return, seeking retribution, punishment. The threats had no effect as long as Murmur followed the beat of the music, the beat of Luke’s heart, Hell could not touch them. Whilst Luke played they were safe.

Long after the music ended and the audience filed out, Murmur remained in his seat, his eyes closed, listening. Footsteps approached him and stopped, but he was not listening to them, he listened instead to the music of the accompanying heartbeat. Opening his eyes he smiled as he looked up in to the face of the young man who had completely changed his afterlife.


message 49: by Shaz (last edited Jun 10, 2012 11:09PM) (new)

Shaz VALENTINE'S DAY 2012
Hell & Love Hearts


BLIND OBSCURITY
by Brett

“Bite me there and I’ll stick my hand down your throat and rip out your tongue,” I scowled, jutting my knee into the side of the hellhound’s muzzle. Bones cracked within the dog’s jaw as it whimpered, face down, on the simmering coals at my feet.

The dark messenger had been trying to gather my attention to no avail, when it had apparently decided to throw subtlety to the wind and go for the money shot. I wasn’t oblivious to the hound’s impatience. Making my subjects wait was how one exhibited their power, or at least one of the ways.

Going soft wasn’t an option.

“What is it?” I spat, satisfied that I’d taught the dog its lesson.

Its hollow eye sockets, scooped clean after a previous failure, seemed to seek me out, glancing up nervously, its chin hovering barely an inch above the coals, as if it could somehow still see.

I nodded my approval at the nonverbal request.

Cautiously taking a moment before standing up on its haunches, the beast’s black fur began to ripple as bones realigned, instigating the metamorphosis. Four legs became two, arms replacing those at the front, as naked flesh overtook almost every last tuft of fur the boy had previously possessed. Left scarred from centuries of abuse, his torso was a track of white swells.

Overgrown hair—black as onyx—stuck out over his ears, accompanied with a mess of a fringe that he used to cover the indented scar tissue where his eyes once were.

I could see the fractures I had inflicted already starting to heal within the boy’s jaw, the bones reconstructing with the shift.

“I’m waiting,” I said, impatiently.

I flicked at my index finger, striking it against my thumb, the resultant embers catching on the coals.

“Lucifer,” the boy said, a catch in his rough voice, ignoring his own state of undress. “There’s something you need to see. I-I tried to stop him, I managed to—to tear off his leg, but it didn’t seem to deter him.”

I sighed, dreading the feeling that crept up on me. I knew I’d have to punish the boy again, if only to maintain face. Maybe putting him down would be for the best. How many times could one hellhound fail me?

Staring at the boy’s tarnished back, as I allowed the hound to lead the way, only sought to highlight my point.

The heat clawed at my black shirt and slacks as ocean-like flames leapt up the walls of the narrow corridor we’d turned down. The coals lining the ground continued to massage my bare feet with their encroaching warmth.

“Sorry.” The boy turned back around, pressing his shoulder blades into the fiery door that blocked our path. The blue flames singed his flesh as he stood motionless, his chin titled downwards. Pointing to his face, he said, “It won’t grant me access from this side.”

“Get out of the way,” I shoved the boy’s shoulder, sending him face forwards into the heat of the wall.

The boy gritted his teeth, stifling a cry that begged to be let free.

I placed my eye before the biometric scanner—a green, horizontal laser beam scanning my retina before the internal lock released and the door slid back into a crevice within the wall.

The coals ended at the doorway. Dirt, packed hard, with a deep orange tint, replacing the embedded heat with a pervasive chill.

The boy exited behind me, the door sliding closed and securing the one and only way out of hell. Standing on the soils of Earth, I wondered why my hellhound had brought me there. I avoided the mortal plane with a ferocity that rivalled no ones. Angels walked amongst the humans, a species I had no desire to cross paths with ever again.

The Fallen were bad enough.

“You’d better have a good reason,” I began, turning, ready to finish off the boy that had led me there.

“I-I told you,” he stuttered, his chin burrowing deeper into the nook of his marred chest, keeping his sockets aimed securely at the dirt. “He…I-I…bit him…his leg,” the boy stumbled to put together something to save his hide.

I threw my arm outwards, a blue orb leaving my hand and evaporating into specks of mist after finding nothing solid to strike.

Calming myself down, I huffed out a deep breath before turning to face the quivering boy, “That was a warning. Now tell me the truth or the next one will find a nice stomach to penetrate.”

The boy dropped to his hands and knees and began shifting back into his hound form, black fur covering every inch of him in a matter of seconds.

I kicked the dog in its chest, knocking it on its back. “Shift back, now!” I growled.

The dog rolled over and shook its muzzle, backing away with its hind legs perched.

I held my palm like I was offering a treat, fingers edging upwards. Blue sparks appeared, teetering on my fingertips, and then dissipating as new ones took their place. I held my powers with tight precision, reining them in, only for the boy’s sake. If he shifted, I would disengage. Otherwise, I’d have to destroy him. I had no room for dissention amongst my ranks.

“Shift!” I repeated, firing a blast directly into the air.

As the mist rained down on us, tiny pricks of heat eating at my clothing, the hound began its shift, standing before me, naked once again.

He wrapped his arms around my neck, pressing his chin into my shirt, an unnerving chill soaking through.

I gripped the boy’s ribs, pushing him back slightly, “What?” I asked flatly.

The boy’s dark fringe hung downwards, before I forced the boy’s sockets into my view. The boy snivelled, “I’m sorry. I lied. I-I just wanted you to…know me.”

I pressed the boy back into my chest and muttered into a protruding clump of hair, “I do.”


message 50: by Shaz (last edited Jun 10, 2012 11:09PM) (new)

Shaz VALENTINE'S DAY 2012
Hell & Love Hearts


UNTITLED
by Rach

“If I grant you this, you know what will happen to you?” The voice came from no-one, out of no- where, but Reaper wasn’t fazed. He came from no-where and was essentially no-one too.

“Yes,” he replied, his attention focused more on the young man in the hospital bed, than the disembodied voice in the room.

He’d been drawn to the boy for some months now, silently watching the disease inside his body eat away at him. The boy had been strong, he’d put up a fight, but the last fortnight had seen Reaper visiting more frequently until he now stood at near constant vigil at the boy’s bedside.

“You will cease to exist, Reaper.”

The boy’s Doctor entered the room. Doctor West. Brisk and businesslike he failed to notice how the boy – Danny, his name was Danny – struggled to straighten up. How his fingers fidgeted and his lashes dipped. If Reaper had been able, he would have felt angry at the Doctor’s blind ignorance. But it had been a long time since Reaper had felt anything.

“Existence isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” he murmured.

There was a moment’s silence. Reaper watched Dr West scribble notes on Danny’s chart while the boy in the bed squirmed, wanting to say something, dying to say something, but not sure how. Doc West didn’t even see it. He re-clipped the chart and gave Danny an absent pat on the shoulder, mind already on his next patient as Danny’s smile, forced past a haze of pain and weariness, wavered on his face.

“It will be…a shock…Reaper.”

Without so much as a backward glance the Doctor left the room. Reaper was the only one to see Danny’s eyes fill with tears. He was the only one who knew that Danny had never been kissed. Never would be kissed. Reaper shifted on his feet, jaw a little tighter than normal.

“I welcome it, your Grace.”

A sigh swept the room.

“You know what I need from you then.”

Reaper thought the hand he brought to his chest might tremble a little, but no, it was as steady as always. Without hesitation he buried it inside himself. His body was his body, but it was not made from flesh and bone.

Squeezing his fist closed, Reaper tore the slippery mass from the middle of his chest. He didn’t bleed, but the quivering muscle in his hand still looked like a throbbing heart. With his other hand, Reaper scooped out his lungs and some threads of intestine.

He handed them over.

Something warm touched him. A goodbye of sorts. Reaper barely noticed. He’d made his pact.

He found Doc West in the staff room. A touch of foreboding was all it took to propel the man back down the hallway, a frown darkening his handsome brow. Reaper took possession of him as he pushed open Danny’s door.

The exchange was simple. A temporary transfer. One soul in, one soul out. But the result…

Reaper staggered. Everything hit him at once. Smells, sounds, the scrape of cloth against his skin, the glare of light in his eyes. Every one of his senses tumbled into overdrive and he gasped, trying to absorb it all as the world spun, lightning fast, around him.

“Doctor West?”

The sound of Danny’s voice brought Reapers revolving world to an abrupt stop. Reaper’s head snapped up. Danny had slipped from his bed and was stumbling towards him. On legs that were disease weakened and uncooperative. Reaper shot forward just as Danny’s legs crumpled, catching him before he hit the floor.

The heat of Danny’s body instantly rushed in and stole beats from Reaper’s heart. Reaper sucked in a breath and clung to the boy, breathing him in through every pore, his heart a wild thing in his chest, his limbs trembling. God! Danny felt so good in his arms. So solid. So alive. And he smelled good too. Like warm summer rain on fresh cut grass. Reaper opened eyes he hadn’t even realized he’d closed and met the surprised blue of Danny’s. Loosening his grip on the boy, Reaper drew him back to his feet.

Danny immediately clutched at Reaper’s arm, boney fingers digging in. “What’s wrong? Is it the test results? Are they bad?”

The sweet brush of Danny’s breath on Reaper’s face sent a shiver of goosebumps down his spine. He forced himself to focus on Danny’s words.

“Actually, your test results came back far better than expected.”

The boy’s mouth cupid bowed, so pretty warmth flooded Reapers chest. He swallowed, voice huskier than usual as it scraped past the sudden tightness in his throat.

“But that’s not why I’m here. I do believe it’s Valentine's Day.”

All of a sudden Danny seemed to realize whose arms were around him and a blush crept from his neck to his cheekbones to his hairline. Unable to help himself, Reaper reached out and brushed the backs of his fingers over the heated skin. Danny caught his breath, and an invisible band wrapped itself around Reaper’s chest, squeezing tight. Reluctantly he slid his fingers from the softness of Danny’s cheek.

“I have something for you.”

Danny seemed even more shocked by this statement than he had been about the positive test results. Reaper reached into the Doc’s pocket and drew out his gift.

The palm sized porcelain heart glistened like a wet ruby. Black and white ribbons wrapped around it like circling arms. All of Reaper’s offerings bound together as one.

“I love it,” Danny whispered, hand trembling as he took the gift. He stroked one of the ribbons, unaware that as he did so, colour bled from the ornament into his flesh. But Reaper saw, and the peace he was so used to bringing others finally settled inside himself.

Danny’s gaze shifted to Reaper, the look on his face so sweetly shy, Reaper wanted to memorize every inch of it and tuck it deep inside.

“But I don’t have anything for you.”

Heat flushed the boy’s face again, but this time it was brighter. Healthier. Reaper reached for Danny’s hand and found the pulse in his wrist steadier and stronger than it had been mere moments ago. He smiled, ignoring, as best he could, the stuttering of his own heart and the weakness rapidly invading his limbs. He didn’t have long. He didn’t NEED long.

“Ahh, but you do,” Reaper insisted. He drew Danny closer, rejoicing in the strength in the boy's half step. “You have my first kiss.”

“And your last,” came the voice for the final time.

“And my last.” Reaper agreed.


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