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    Demiurge
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Mental Health will be discussed. I will flag specific chapters where it is heavier than others

I Hate This Town - 14. Chapter 14: Hope?

*Slightly heavier angst

*The ever-present mental health issues

Alec rolled over on the floor and watched River leave the room, cigarette dangling from his lips. He sighed and rubbed his tired, dry eyes. He hadn’t slept very well. Everything had compounded and he kept waking up in the middle of the night so his brain could remind him that there were plenty of things to be upset about. He’d managed to work through his shock of finding himself absent in his childhood home. Sure, it had caught him off guard and it had been jarring, but what did it matter in the long run? His family was fractured-broken beyond repair. Alec reasoned that maybe this was his parents’ way of grieving. It was possible that their intent hadn’t been malicious at all. They might be hurting too and having things around that served as constant reminders may have just rubbed salt in old wounds.

He sighed and slowly brought himself up to a sitting position. His own pain had subsided a bit. That was good. He’d need all the help he could get when he went to see his mother. He’d planned to go yesterday after visiting with his father, but clearly things hadn’t gone to plan. He scrolled through his emails and read through one from his assistant. He was in the process of expanding the game he’d built. It was originally intended for small children, but he wanted it to grow with them through school. Alec hoped that he could encourage learning and interest while making something kids would actually like. He smiled to himself and answered the few questions needed to move forward before closing his email and bringing up his main menu where all his currently running apps sat. He chewed on the inside of his cheek as his thumb hovered over the social media app where two faces still smiled up at him. He clicked it and let his eyes roam over the pair. Finn was gorgeous. He always had been and the little girl was adorable. Alec rested his cheek in his palm and tilted his head to the side, flipping through the other pictures on the man’s profile as he forced his thoughts to remain rational.

So what if this was Finn’s daughter? It’d been a decade and it was downright disgusting that he still somehow seemed to think he had a claim on his high school boyfriend. Entitled much? Alec was disappointed in himself. This wasn’t a depressing fairytale where the main character’s long-lost love waited with bated breath for their return. That wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be fair to Finn. He deserved happiness. So did Alec. He closed the app finally and let out a breath. Finn had been a monolith of memories and pain for a decade, but why? They’d been so young and they had each done what they thought was right. They’d tried to make something work that was probably doomed from the start, but for a short time, they’d cared deeply for each other and they’d lifted each other up. That was the appropriate way to think about what they’d been. Finn had brought smiles and joy back into Alec’s life after they’d been long gone.

His brain had been on a positive kick for too long apparently. His insecurity jabbed at him. Finn had given him so much. He’d been a beacon in one of the darkest points of Alec’s life, and all he had given the other boy was suffering. His mind again brought him back to the night of the ill-fated party. Things had been going so well. Sure, there was the underlying tension that both chose to ignore. They both knew Alec was going to leave. Well, Alec had thought they’d been on the same page, but Finn’s disbelief when he discovered River was going with-that it was happening and not just a silly pipe dream-had crushed everything pleasant for the two of them. There had been glimmers of hope left but the piss poor communication afterward had stomped even the faintest bit of hope out.

Shaking his head, Alec stood, cursing the floor for the ache in his lower back. He staggered to the bathroom for a shower and was fresh from it and working pomade into his hair when the bathroom door opened. His eyes bugged out of his head and he clutched his towel tight to his chest as River shut the door behind him and then leaned back against it. Alec raised an eyebrow, but his friend wasn’t looking at him. His eyes were locked on the ceiling while his tongue anxiously flicked against his lip ring. Alec frowned, tilting his head to the side while he waited for his friend to explain himself. River’s eyeliner was an even bigger mess now. It had been smeared out to his temples and over his cheekbones.

“Say someone wanted something from a relationship that you didn’t…how would you go about discussing that and explaining yourself?” River’s blue eyes dipped and he shot Alec a lopsided smile, “Hypothetically of course.”

Alec nodded slowly, working his fingers through his hair as he thought, “I suppose it would depend on how far apart the two involved were with where they stood. Is there a way to meet in the middle? To compromise?”

River brushed his pink bangs out of his eyes and shook his head, “The other person’s thinking is black and white. I don’t think there’s much room for negotiation. No shades of gray if you will.”

Alec frowned and pulled on joggers, “River, your entire life is a mess of rainbow. You don’t even comes close to shades of gray, let alone black and white.”

“We aren’t talking about me remember?” River scratched the back of his head as his grin dropped a little.

“Okay,” Alec sighed, “Say person B wants a commitment, but person A is happy with the way things are, if there’s no meeting in the middle things are going to get messy. Someone or both will have to bend or it isn’t going to work.”

“Yes, yes. I know.” River nodded, “Let’s say that person B has never been in a committed relationship and it was agreed that this one would be casual as well, but now…B caught feelings.”

Alec blinked at his friend. Never in their adult life had River been serious with anyone. He didn’t like to be tied down and people became boring to him quickly. Alec yanked a shirt over his head as he thought. If River had fallen for someone who didn’t feel the same, the situation had the potential to be devastating for his friend. River was an incredibly strong person. He always had been, but this was uncharted territory and seeing his friend out of sorts was almost unsettling.

“River, do you think-sorry. Does person B know that A has no interest in him besides physical?”

River shrugged, “A is hard to read. He’s serious to the point of being severe. B never knows what he’s thinking.”

“I think that he needs to ask him. Have a decent conversation about it to see where they both stand. If their expectations don’t match, maybe it’s time to move on?” Alec secured his watch, studying River’s face as his friend thought.

“That’s the easy solution, but I guess I’m worried it will end things. I don’t want it to end.” Alec paused for a moment at the slight shift. The hypothetical had collapsed in the span of a few minutes and now his friend was opening up for real. River was a rock and it was rare that Alec was the one providing support. That meant he couldn’t mess it up. River had done so much for him and supported him through everything. It was his turn now.

“If it ends once you clarify where you stand, is that the worse thing? If you want more and he doesn’t, is it worth stringing yourself along?” Alec stepped forward, stopping in front of his friend in the small bathroom. He didn’t touch, hoping the proximity would be enough to comfort.

River leaned forward, letting his forehead press to Alec’s shoulder. Alec hugged his friend and listened to the quiet, even breathing. River wasn’t crying. He wasn’t a crier. This was bothering him though and it made Alec ache for his friend.

“How long have you known you had feelings for mystery man?” He asked as he pet River’s hair gently.

“Not long. It hit me all at once last night.” Came the answer, mumbled into Alec’s shoulder.

“What are you going to do?” Alec asked, resting his head on top of his friend’s.

“Have a conversation when we get back. In person.” River straightened and sighed, “I knew it was the right thing to do, it’s going to suck.”

“Do I get to meet A at some point?” Alec grinned and rubbed at the dried flecks of liner on his friend’s face.

“Well, I suppose that depends on how the conversation goes.” River smirked and let his head fall back against the door, “Are you planning to visit your mother today?”

“I probably should. It’s the whole reason we’re here, huh?”

“How excited are you?” River asked as he dragged his hands through his hair, holding it away from his face.

“Oh, I can barely contain myself.” Alec groaned, rolling his eyes.

He glanced to his friend and took a deep breath. He’d been toying with something since he woke up. Now that he was faced with a decision, he felt his unease grow. Swallowing hard, he closed his eyes. When he opened them, he rubbed his hand down his face and smiled weakly as he met River’s suspicious gaze.

“I think…I should go alone. I don’t want to drag you through that with me.” Alec crossed his arms over his chest as River studied him.

“Do you think that’s a good idea?” River frowned.

“I’m a grown man. Time to fight my own battles, huh?” Alec rubbed the back of his neck and then squared his shoulders.

“They grow up so fast.” River gasped and Alec laughed, shoving at his shoulder. River grinned and then his expression sobered, “Listen, I don’t mind coming with. Moral support. If you need it, that is.”

Alec smiled, “I’ve never doubted that you’d help if I needed it. You’re always there for me, but I need to do this myself. I’ve got this.”

 

There were a lot of things that Alec had, control of himself in this situation was not one of them. Walking up to St. Mary’s hospital, his entire body felt heavy. He didn’t want to do this. Alec wanted to turn around and hop on a plane to get back home. Everything was safe at home. He wasn’t constantly being forced away from his comfort zone. His routine was firmly established and once again, it was safe. He forced himself to calm down. The panic rising inside of him was self-inflicted. He was so busy reminding himself how worried and scared he was, that he was losing rationality. Again.

“You’re going to go up the hallway there to the elevators, her room will be on the second floor. Go left at the nurse’s station and there will be signs.” The woman at the front desk smiled kindly and Alec managed a close-lipped smile and small nod.

He followed her directions and looked at the markers on the wall until he found himself standing in front of a door. The placard next to it read “239”. He was in the right place and he could hear quiet voices from inside. The door was left slightly ajar and he could see the cheap, yellow-toned laminate material that covered the room’s floor. He spent a few seconds building himself up. He wouldn’t be entirely alone. His father was supposed to be here already. He’d said so on a voicemail left on Alec’s phone. The message had been left after Alec watched the phone ring this morning and chose to ignore it. Morning was far too early to have to deal with either of his parents. So was noon, but he had little choice.

Taking a deep breath, he pushed open the door and peeked around it as he stepped forward. He saw his father first. He was sitting in a chair near the hospital bed, looking exhausted again. Alec’s eyes took in the rest of the room. His mother was laying in the bed, glaring at his father. Some things never changed.

Alec stepped farther into the room and both of his parents turned to look at him. Whatever conversation they’d been in the middle of died immediately. His father almost looked relieved. His mother looked surprised and then instantly angry.

“What are you doing here?” She snapped.

Alec took his moment of stunned silence to really look at the woman. She had a colorful scarf wrapped around her head and she looked gaunt. Her skin was even faintly tinged yellow. Jaundice? She looked thin and frail. Nothing like she looked when he was younger. She’d never been a large person, but she’d been strong and had always commanded attention. Now, she barely had a presence. Rather than intimidated, Alec just felt sad.

“I asked what you think you’re doing here?” She asked again, voice raising, “Are you deaf?”

Alec rubbed the back of his head and prepared to answer, but his father interrupted him, “I asked him to come Mae.”

“Why on Earth would you do that?” Her glare switched from Alec to his father and he hated to admit that a small part of him was relieved.

“He’s your son. You don’t think it’s important to see him when…when you’re not doing well?” Henry fidgeted, averting his gaze from his wife’s.

Alec rolled his eyes, “Listen, I’m not excited to see you either. I’d be more than happy to leave, but dad made it sound like I had to come. I can be on the next plane back home.”

“I think that would be better for everyone.” His mother sniffed indignantly and turned away from him.

Alec’s hands tightened into fists. There were so many things that would be a better use of his time than sitting here and trying to appease this woman. They had no bond. He had no idea why he’d even come here. She didn’t want to see him. He should have known that when his father was the one to reach out. His mother hadn’t reached out to him since he’d left home. His father had always been the one to try to facilitate a relationship. She hadn’t changed. She was still the same judgmental woman she’d been when he’d still live in this god forsaken state.

Alec took a deep breath as he turned away. Honestly, what had he been expecting? Maybe part of him was hoping for a magical change of heart? His mother wouldn’t be a hateful shrew and his father wouldn’t be a coward? He shoved through the door and stood just outside, his nails digging crescent-shaped impressions into his palms.

It felt like he was losing somehow. He had come home for them. He tilted his head back and stared up at the ceiling. He wasn’t a kid anymore. He was a full-grown man and he was sick of giving them the upper hand. Alec took a few deep breaths, holding the oxygen in his lungs for a bit longer than necessary before letting it out. He raised his head and squared his shoulders before turning around. He pushed the door open and strode back into the room. His father looked upset and his mother was glaring at Henry. As soon as Alec came back, both of their expressions tipped into surprise.

“I thought you were leaving?” His mother sneered, recovering first as she crossed her arms over her chest.

“I thought you were dying?” Alec snapped, “You know that’s the only reason I’m here, right? Dad made it seem like you were on your death bed. I’m not sure if you are, but it wouldn’t surprise me if dying made you an even worse person. Why reflect before you meet your maker right? You’ve been the perfect little Christian for your entire time on this planet, huh?”

His mother’s eyes widened comically and for the first time in Alec’s life, she was speechless. It was oddly satisfying and he found he was on a roll, “Maybe think about how those closest to you, your husband and son, both hate you. What does that say about you? What have you actually got to show for your time on this earth? Aside from making people you’re supposed to love suffer?”

“Get out!” His mother shouted, face reddening.

“Gladly.” Alec stomped out of the room, not bothering to close the door.

He left the hospital almost in a daze. Once he slid into the car, he simply sat there, holding the steering wheel and staring off into space. He’d yelled at his mother. He’d insulted her. Never in his life had he been that bold. He knew, rationally, that it wasn’t right. You shouldn’t find joy in yelling at someone, in breaking them down. He had a strange feeling inside. It was guilt twisting with an almost sick satisfaction. The feeling was winding around his insides and making his stomach uneasy. His inner child wanted to run back inside and apologize, but his adult self knew there was nothing his mother could do to him. Alec had somehow convinced himself she still had some kind of hold or control over him, but that wasn’t true. Alec had been free for years now. He’d only been keeping himself prisoner. As the unease wound around his abdomen, a weight lifted off his chest.

He’d been terrified to come home and he still didn’t feel entirely okay, but he was beginning to realize he could get something from this. Maybe this process could be cathartic instead of traumatizing? He started the rental car, smiling to himself as he felt the first spark of hope ignite inside him since he’d landed back in Iowa. It was going to be okay. Alec was going to get his closure and then there would be no reason to look back when they hopped on the plane to head back home.

Hey, sorry to keep you all waiting.

Life, ya know?

Copyright © 2022 Demiurge; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Catharsis is way harder to get than people  tend to think, but this  feels like maybe its the real thing. 

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It's funny how the negative elements of your past can skew the present positives and I yhink that's exactly what Alec is experiencing. He hated the town, he hated his mom and how she rained her bullsh*t down on ecery aspect of his life as a teenager, but the beacons of light -- Finn, Milo, River, that bunch -- float on the surface of his mind while the dark elements eventually sink to the bottom (to be forgotten).

I hope his subconscious self keeps leading him to Finn. The little girl is Milo's and, even if she isn;t, the fact that she is Finn's and he loves her will be enough to temper Alec's feelings. Again, he may hate the town, but someone like Finn will weather distance, will weather time. Finn is, like, the definition of "absence will make the heart grow fonder," Alec.

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