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The sun was low in the sky by the time Alex emerged from his bedroom.
He’d been left alone by his parents for most of the afternoon, giving him a chance to setup new social media accounts and message his online friends to tell them he’d been ‘hacked’. A few influential accounts had already offered to promote him, posting Instagram Stories about the ‘hacking’ and encouraging their followers to support Alex. As a result, he already had 1,000 new followers.
Walking toward the kitchen, he began to pick up the sound of raised voices. They were coming from his parents’ wing of the house. He decided to bypass the kitchen and crept towards his parents’ bedroom.
“It’s full of half-naked men!”
“So? There’s just as many half-naked women.”
“That is so beside the point.”
Alex stayed close to the wall, keeping his footsteps as George continued.
“Where’d you get this ‘pedophile’ idea, anyway?”
“I’ve never seen you moderate Alex’s social media before. What gave you the idea that he’s being groomed?”
“I never said he was being ‘groomed’.”
“You said pedophiles are sending him private messages.”
“They are. They have been for years!”
“How do you know that?”
“Because I’ve seen the messages.”
“Is it really that important, George?”
George paused and regrouped.
“What makes you think they’re pedophiles?”
“Because of the things they say to him.”
Jennifer didn’t immediately respond. “I’d really rather not get into it.”
Alex grimaced, remembering the messages his mother was talking about. It had been confronting to receive nude requests as a young teenager, but as he’d grown older, he viewed them as little more than an occupational hazard.
“Okay, let’s say I take your word for it. Has Alex been responding to their messages?”
“And have any of these people been stalking him offline?”
“Not to my knowledge.”
“Okay.” George paused. “I have another question for you, then. If this has been going on for years, why are you only just deleting his accounts now? And why did you take the nuclear option instead of just blocking these so-called ‘pedophiles’?”
Jennifer didn’t respond. Alex crept closer, straining to hear her words.
“Are you going to answer the question?”
Still no response. Alex crept another step closer.
“So you have nothing to say to that?”
“I don’t have to explain myself to you.”
The tone of Jennifer’s voice put Alex on high alert This argument could boil over at any moment.
“You know it looks like you deleted the accounts out of spite, right?”
“I don’t care.”
“It looks like you’re punishing him for being gay.”
“That’s not what happened.”
“It looks like—”
“No George, stop.” Alex’s fight-or-flight instincts were now kicking in. “You can’t just come in here and start criticizing my parenting decisions—”
“Ruining our son’s career prospects isn’t a ‘parenting decision’, Jennifer.”
“When was the last time you even MADE a parenting decision, George?”
Alex’s jaw dropped. He was now torn between his want for safe ground and his need to hear the rest of the argument.
“Regardless of what you think of me, Jennifer, you should have at least called before making a major parenting decision like this.”
“If I did, would you have picked up?”
“For something like this, absolutely.” There was more to George’s response than Alex could interpret. “And even if I couldn’t, I shouldn’t have to learn about your ‘parenting decisions’ from a fucking STRANGER.”
The room went silent as George waited for Jennifer’s response. It wasn’t immediately forthcoming.
“Don’t you have anything to say for yourself?”
“I don’t have to justify myself to you, George.”
“You should at least justify yourself to Alex, then.”
“I already have.”
“That’s not what he told me.”
“Then he’s lying.” Jennifer’s next words were conveyed with a quiet defiance. “Everything I did, I did to protect him.”
“It sounds like the only thing he needed protecting from was YOU.”
Alex scrambled for cover as the bedroom door slammed. He ducked around a corner and watched George stomp past with heavy footsteps, and listened as they continued out of sight and all the way to the front door. After one last check that the coast was clear, Alex made a mad dash down the same hallway and all the way back to his silent bedroom.
Once there, he quietly closed the door and sunk all the way to the carpeted floor.
Suddenly, rebuilding his online profile felt like the least of his worries.
* * * * *
Across town, Harry had some big worries of his own. He just didn’t yet realize yet.
Harry looked up from his laptop and saw Jill standing in the doorway. She had an opaque shopping bag clutched in her right hand.
“Hey, I didn’t realize you were home.”
“Yeah, just got back.”
Jill walked into the bedroom and took a seat at the foot of Harry’s bed. Harry put his laptop down and focused on her, or more specifically, on the shopping bag.
A sense of dread was slowly mounting within him.
“What do you have there?”
“I, uh, picked up something for you at the chemist.”
Harry’s sense of dread increased as Jill reached into the bag…
Oh God, this isn’t happening.
…and took out a box of condoms.
Kill me now.
Harry wanted to die. No method of death could be more painful than this living moment.
“After our discussion this morning, I thought you might need these.”
Jill avoided eye contact as she handed the box over. She then reached into the bag again and handed over a tube of lubricant. Harry immediately stuffed both items under his pillow, as if removing them from sight could erase the memory.
“I, uh, assume you know how to use them.”
Kill. Me. Now.
Jill was now looking at Harry, seeking eye contact. Harry looked up briefly, long enough to turn an even deeper shade of crimson, before looking back down at his bedspread.
“Did you have any questions about the rules we discussed?”
“About Alex sleeping over?”
“No.” Harry began picking at a loose thread. “I mean, I don’t think it’s fair, but I guess that doesn’t matter.”
“We can’t interfere in his parents’ decisions.” Jill ignored the fact that she’d already driven to Alex’s house to do just that. “I understand why Alex did what he did, but it still was wrong for him to run away in the middle of the night. George had every right to punish him.”
“It’s not like Alex could call—”
“I know, I know.” Again, Jill was sympathetic. “But as I said, we can’t interfere.”
Harry shook his head, but let the matter drop.
Jill watched her son continue to pick at the loose thread, carefully considering her next words.
“Alex seems like a nice boy.” A smile briefly tugged at Harry’s lips. “He obviously cares a lot about you.”
“He does.” Harry nodded, still smiling.
“Just… be careful, okay?”
The smile disappeared. “How do you mean?”
“I know you two have been… experimenting.”
Harry practically folded in on himself, attempting to disappear inside his hoodie.
“I’m not stupid, Harry. I have ears.”
Please, just end this pain.
Harry now pulled the hoodie’s strings, reducing him to a mere pair of eyeballs inside a cotton prison.
“Speaking of, I might need to buy you a new mattress. Especially if sleepovers become a regular thing.”
“Okay.” Jill was now chuckling to herself, drawing sadistic pleasure from Harry’s embarrassment. “Do you have questions about anything else?”
“If you need more ‘supplies’, just ask.” Jill laughed again. She simply couldn’t help herself.
“Can we PLEASE not talk about this anymore?”
Jill patted Harry on the leg, then stood up. She sought out eye contact one more time.
“I really am happy for you, Harry. You deserve a nice boy like Alex.”
Harry relaxed his grip and allowed his face to partially re-emerge.
“Anyway, I’m gonna make a start on dinner.”
“What are we having?”
Harry nodded, then retrieved his laptop and turned attention back to his schoolwork.
Meanwhile, Jill paused in the doorway, marveling at the boy who suddenly looked so grown up. Though he was horribly embarrassed right now, she could still feel the happiness that radiated from him as he basked in the warmth of his first love.
All she could now was hope and pray that it didn’t end in heartbreak.
* * * * *
Long after the last taco had been devoured, Harry’s phone buzzed with an Instagram notification.
‘Alex Wyatt (@AlexWyattOfficial) has requested to follow you.’
A huge grin broke out on his face as he unlocked his phone and immediately accepted.
A moment later, his phone starting ringing.
“Hey there, Alex Wyatt Official.”
“Hey!” Alex’s laughter was sincere, in spite of the joke’s stupidity. “How’s it going?”
“Good.” Harry quickly got up and closed the bedroom door. “How about you?”
Alex seemed relaxed. A fact that genuinely pleased Harry as he sat back down on his bed.
“I see you’re back up and running on Insta.”
“I am. Already got a thousand new followers, as well.”
“That was quick.”
“Yeah.” Alex nodded. “A couple of my friends offered to do shout-outs, so that was cool.”
Harry leaned back against his pillows, trying to get comfortable.
“Have things settled down at your place?”
“Not really. My parents had a pretty big domestic earlier.”
“Yeah.” Alex noted the concern in Harry’s voice. “You don’t have to be worried or anything. My dad’s still on our side.”
“Well that’s something.” Harry didn’t look all that relieved. “I take it your mom’s still being an asshole?”
“I wish she was more like your mom.”
“Trust me, you don’t.”
Harry let out a slight chuckle, though it was mostly mirthless.
“Why? What happened?”
Harry rolled to the side and grabbed the condom box from his bedside drawer. He held it in front of the camera for Alex to see.
Alex’s laughter was a lot more genuine than Harry’s.
“She bought them for you?”
Harry put the box away as his cheeks burnt a fiery red. “She tried to do the whole ‘birds and bees’ talk and everything.”
Alex was practically clutching his sides now. The absurdity of Harry’s experience was the exact distraction he needed.
“I take it she, uh, heard us this morning?”
“It sounds like she’s cool with it, at least.”
Alex got serious again, processing the new information
“It sucks that I can’t sleep over any time soon.”
“Wait, what?” Harry froze. “I thought you were only grounded for a week?”
“I am.” Alex’s expression didn’t fit the words. “I can’t see my mom letting me stay over any time soon, though.”
“Well that sucks.”
Grim reality set in. The thought of not feeling Alex’s touch for days or even weeks on end began to weigh on Harry’s mind.
Regardless, Alex tried to be optimistic. “We’ll figure out something.”
They sat in awkward silence until Harry not-so-subtly changed the subject.
“What else is going on, anyway?”
“Not much.” Alex was happy to play along with the distraction. “Just been working on rebuilding my Instagram.”
“Are you gonna upload all your old photos?”
“Dunno yet. Maybe.”
“So I can look at them all again.”
Alex laughed, but soon realized Harry was deadly serious.
“You know all my old modeling pics are saved in a cloud folder, right?”
“Can you link me to it?”
“Why?” Alex’s voice took on a teasing tone. “You wanna check out my body?”
Alex laughed again at Harry’s utter shamelessness. “Okay, I’ll send you the link.”
Alex looked off-camera toward his laptop.
“Anyway, I should probably get going. Still gotta type up this assignment.”
“About the World War One artists?”
“Yeah. It’s due tomorrow”
Neither boy seemed in any hurry hang up first.
“I really should go.”
Harry began to giggle as Alex still made no move.
Alex looked between his school assignment and Harry’s smirking face. “Stop judging me.”
“What? I didn’t say anything.”
“You didn’t have to.”
Alex looked at his laptop screen again.
“Okay, I’m really going this time.”
“Sure you are.”
“I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
Another moment of silence, but this time Alex’s mood really did seem to shift.
“I really do need to get this done.”
“Okay.” Harry decided to stop screwing around. “I’ll hang up first then.”
“I love you.”
The words hit Harry like a sucker punch. He stared down the barrel of his phone camera, dumbfounded.
“Harry, did you hear me?”
“Yeah.” He still wasn’t sure he’d ever get used to hearing the words.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
They locked eyes down the camera barrel. As always, Harry broke eye contact first.
“Okay, I’m going now.”
Alex reached for his phone.
“Wait, don’t forget to send me that link.”
“I won’t.” Alex gave Harry a sly wink. “Who knows? I might even slip a surprise or two in there.”
Harry couldn’t even begin to imagine what the ‘surprise’ might be.
“Anyway, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“Love you, too.”
Alex blew a soft kiss to the camera and then hung up, leaving Harry to wonder what he’d done to deserve such an amazing boyfriend.
Thanks for reading the tenth chapter of Model Behaviour.
The boys are in love and nothing can stop them. Well, almost nothing...