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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 - 4. Chapter 4: Drive

*Alec gets really in his head this chapter-warning for slight mental health struggles

Alec’s hands shifted down on the seatbelt as he waited for Finn to say something. He wasn’t sure why he’d decided Finn had to carry this conversation. It was how their normal conversations flowed. Alec wasn’t good at them so Finn picked up the slack. He didn’t disappoint this time either and Alec felt relief for the second time that night.

“Can you tell me what happened? I kept looking for you guys, but I didn’t see you until you were leaving.” He turned off on another road, keeping his eyes straight ahead. Alec watched the other boy’s Adam’s apple bob as he finished his sentence. Why was Finn so nervous? Alec was the one who embarrassed himself.

Alec sighed, “We looked for you. We couldn’t find you. We went into the house to take a break and overheard some of your friends having a pretty awful conversation.”

“Why didn’t you text? I would’ve come to find you.” Finn asked after a moment. Alec paused. Why hadn’t he? That would’ve made things far easier. Well, he couldn’t help that it’d never even occurred to him. He didn’t have much time to stew as Finn continued, “What did they say? Who was it?”

“We didn’t go in. It was girls. You don’t need to know what they said. It’s over Finn.” The blond was silent and Alec looked out the window. It was hard to see much in the middle of the night. He’d lived in this town his entire life, but he had no idea where they were. Good thing Finn was a good guy or he might be a little concerned.

“I didn’t invite you to embarrass you guys or anything. If that’s what you’re thinking. I really wanted you there and I like River. I’d like to get to know him better too.” Finn said at last. His voice was strained and quiet. Alec snuck a look at him and saw Finn’s brow furrowed, mouth downturned as he stared out the windshield.

“I wasn’t thinking that. I don’t understand why you wanted me there so bad and if you wanted to get to know River so badly, why didn’t you? You guys have been going to the same schools since you came here.” Alec was frowning now too. He didn’t understand.

“You and River are good at hiding. He’s good at staying under the radar and to be honest, until you…I didn’t really notice him. I knew you from the store, so I was already aware of you. When I saw you that first day, I was so surprised! I didn’t know you were homeschooled. I couldn’t figure out why you appeared at the school so suddenly.”

“I don’t understand why you’re so set on us being friends.” Alec said bluntly.

“Why do I have to have a reason?” Finn sighed, “Why is it so bad? You seem cool and I like you.”

Alec fought off the urge to scoff. He was a lot of things. Cool was definitely not one of them. Finn was. They were so different and Alec couldn’t see their friendship working out. Plus, if tonight was any indication, Finn’s friend group didn’t understand it either. Alec remembered the dirty looks the first day. The uncomfortable shifting of the table as they hoped Alec would turn down Finn’s invite. The relief when he had. Afterward, everyone had been talking about how rude the weird new kid was to golden boy Finn. Alec couldn’t win either way. If he went along with Finn, people had nasty things to say. If he pushed Finn away, it was more of the same.

“I’ll talk to my friends. I don’t know what happened, but it was bad enough to hurt both of your feelings. I’ll apologize properly to River too. I’m so frustrated that they would do this. The one time I convince you to come.” Finn let out an irritated noise and draped his arms over the wheel as the old truck rattled over gravel.

“Maybe it’s best if we’re not friends Finn. Your friends don’t like it and really…it doesn’t make much sense. You’re a social person. I a-am not at all.” Alec slid his fingers over the seatbelt crossing his stomach. It hurt for some reason. Saying the words out loud made it clearer. They were so, so different.

“That’s just dumb. Why do other people get to decide if we’re friends? You’re introverted and I’m not. That doesn’t make you any less great. You’re a good person. You’re really nice Alec. I mean you can also be kind of mean, but you’re mostly nice.” Finn rambled, hands thumping against the wheel as they emphasized certain parts of his sentences.

Alec smiled softly to himself. Finn looked annoyed and determined at the same time. It was an unusual look for the normally happy, smiling blond. Other than River, most of Alec’s friends were far away. Distant and detached to a certain level. Finn was different from anyone else he’d ever interacted with.Dealing with catty girls and judgmental jocks would be rough, but he was starting to think that not being exposed to Finn’s brightness and optimism might be worse. Alec fiddled with his thumbs and looked at the tall grass of a field as they drove past.

“I swear I don’t have ulterior motives. I promise. I’m just trying-“

“Okay, okay. I accept your apology!” Alec laughed, waving his hands in front of his face, “I never thought you invited us there to put us in a weird situation or anything. I was upset. That’s all. Also, I’m sorry for the way I talked to you when I left.”

“It’s not the first time you’ve snapped at me like that. Next time…can you just talk to me? I had no idea what was going on and next thing I knew you were leaving, upset, and then yelling at me.” Finn scratched the back of his head, “It’s not really fair Alec. I want to be your friend, but you have to let me.

Alec nodded, rubbing his thumb against a knuckle on the opposite hand. Finn was right. Alec didn’t have control when he got like that. His anxiety took over and unfortunately it usually hid itself behind anger. He lashed out when he felt out of control. Finn had been the recipient too often and they hadn’t even known each other long. It wasn’t fair to him. To take the brunt of Alec’s anger and not even know why, or to be the victim of his anger at all. Alec linked his fingers in his lap and took a deep breath. He didn’t like sharing personal things. He hadn’t even let River in that much, but here he was, about to reveal his inner struggles to a near stranger.

“I get overwhelmed and then I run. If I can’t run, I get angry. It’s my head. It’s all messed up. That’s not your fault. I should be working on it. When I got dropped into a regular high school, I think it did…damage. I’m nervous all the time.” Alec’s fingers were fidgeting even more now and he couldn’t get them to stop.

“Okay, so you have anxiety?” Finn had been guiding them slowly back to River’s and Alec relaxed a bit as he recognized the neighborhood. Finn drove slow, “Do your parents know? That you get so scared? Couldn’t they get you help if you’re struggling with it? That must be hard. Even worse if other people at school are adding to it. Whether it’s on purpose or accidental. I probably add to it to. I can be kind of a lot.”

“It’s okay. I know it’s who you are.” Alec shrugged, his hands slowing.

Well, he’d shared something personal and he hadn’t even died. Finn seemed pretty understanding. That shouldn’t surprise him. Finn was kind. That was the fundamental building block of his personality for crying out loud!

“I wasn’t apologizing. I’m loud and outgoing. That’s who I am. You’re quieter and more reserved. There’s nothing wrong with either one of us. There’s also no reason why we can’t make it work.” Finn went quiet as he pulled up in front of River’s house.

Alec didn’t know what to say. That wasn’t unusual, but the atmosphere in the car was suggesting he needed to respond in some way. He didn’t know how. He didn’t know what he needed to do to make this conversation any less painful or awkward for them. He cracked his knuckles and looked out his window at River’s house.

They hadn’t been gone long. Maybe an hour total. Had River stayed asleep? Had his parents? Would Alec’s own parents be awake across town? He swallowed and played with the hem of his shirt to avoid looking at Finn. For once, the other boy didn’t seem willing to start the conversation again. Alec took a breath and made himself turn to look at Finn. The blond had a tight, two-handed grip on the steering wheel and was staring down at it. He looked tired and hurt.

I should go in. I’ll be in trouble if River’s parents wake up.” Alec winced, hand falling to the door handle. Finn didn’t look at him. He continued to stare straight ahead, his jaw tight. Alec unbuckled his seatbelt. Discomfort and nerves rattled his ribcage as he went to open the door. He needed to get out of this situation before it got any worse. Alec didn’t know how to fix it. He wanted to, but he was at a loss.

Finn’s quiet voice stopped the other boy in his tracks, “H-how do you see me?”

Alec looked back at the blond frowning. What did that even mean? How did Alec see him? He rubbed his neck and frowned. He had been hoping that Finn would help him navigate the conversation, but he’d only confused Alec further. Finn had remained quiet, but now he was looking at his passenger. His face was troubled, one side of his mouth downturned a little. When Alec looked at him, he tried to lift the corners of his mouth. It hurt Alec’s chest for some reason. Why was Finn always looking at him like this? He’d perfected the kicked puppy look and Alec could not, for the life of him, figure out what he kept doing wrong.

“I don’t know what you’re asking me.” Alec said finally.

Finn’s face fell even more and he turned away again. His fingers slid over a worn steering wheel and he squeezed his eyes closed for a few seconds. When he opened them, he was armed with a tight smile that didn’t reach his eyes, “Sorry. I guess I’ll see you at school on Monday. Have a good weekend.”

“Oh. Okay.” Alec hesitated after he’d opened the door. The chilly fall air was crisp and almost refreshing, but it didn’t make him feel any better. He stood outside the truck, still holding the door open as Finn stared out the windshield. Alec wanted Finn to look at him. He didn’t like this quiet, serious Finn who looked like he was trying to ignore Alec now. He shifted from foot to foot, holding the door still, as he stared at the side of the blond’s face. Anxiety had stolen the room in his chest that fresh air may have filled. He didn’t feel like he was getting enough oxygen in his lungs suddenly. Panic rose and Alec’s lips parted as his breathing became more labored.

Everything felt wrong. This was wrong. The conversation and everything that’d happened at the party was wrong. He didn’t like the way this conversation was ending. It felt final for some reason and the pain in Alec’s chest became a sharp, stabbing thing. What was going on? Why had Finn’s mood shifted so dramatically?

How do you see me?

He hadn’t answered correctly, though, he’d been honest. Alec hadn’t understood when Finn had asked, but now he was starting to think he should. He felt like he’d missed something. A stab of gasping fear overtook him. It was similar to the feeling one had when they missed a step and stumbled forward. It gave his heart pause for a few seconds and then it started beating double time. A piece of the puzzle was gone. Alec had missed it completely. How did he make it right? How did he pull the normal smile back onto Finn’s face?

“Finn…are you okay?” He tried, voice wavering a bit.

“Yeah. I’m great.” His voice was flat. Alec wasn’t entirely stupid. He knew Finn wasn’t okay and he knew it was his fault, but the why was still escaping him. The blond still refused to look at him. His frown had smoothed out and now Finn’s face was impassive. Alec thought that the blank expression was worse. Finn was so bright and joyful. The absence of emotion was unsettling and painful for Alec.

“I-I don’t think you are. Do you want to talk about it?” Alec rubbed his side and nervously pushed his wispy electric purple bangs out of his eyes.

Finn sighed and glanced over at last, “Can you close the door? It’s late. I should get home.

Alec’s entire body went numb. He stepped back and closed the door without a thought. His brain seemed to be offline at the moment. Finn didn’t look at him again. Alec watched his hand move on the truck’s shifter and then he was pulling away. Alec pulled his long sleeves over his exposed fingers and watched the truck get farther away. It turned down a side street and Alec lost sight of it.

What had just happened? He pulled harder at his sleeves. The pain in his chest was absolutely crushing now. He felt like his chest would collapse and his body would fold in on itself, making him smaller and smaller until he ceased to exist. He rubbed his fingertips against his sternum and spun around to walk back to the house. He was still on autopilot. His brain was empty and he didn’t know how to fill it with coherent thoughts.

He made it inside and into River’s bedroom without making much noise. Tucking himself into the blankets spread out on the floor, Alec pulled the thicker blanket up to his chin. Why did he feel like someone had died? Was it because Finn was upset with him? It had to be. It hurt to know that he was the reason Finn’s light had dimmed considerably over the course of the night. He rubbed his hands roughly over his face, groaning. He wished it wasn’t the middle of the night. He needed River’s input. The other boy wasn’t social, but he had better skills in that area than Alec did. He knew he didn’t handle people well. He didn’t understand a lot of the reactions he saw from his peers.

He didn’t understand Finn.

He rolled over, facing the drooling boy on the bed. River’s mouth was hanging open as he snored softly. His feet were kicked out of the bottom of the blanket and his arms were spread out strangely around him.

Alec sighed, “River?”

His friend didn’t stir, so Alec tried again, “River?”

The boy’s nose scrunched and his fist rubbed against his nose, incoherent words falling from his lips as he tried to slide back into deep sleep. Alec sat up, shaking River’s shoulder lightly, “Riv!”

River jerked away from the contact, eyes wide as he joined the conscious world, “God what? What’s wrong? Why are you waking me up?”

“I need…I need help River.” Alec sighed heavily, chest heaving.

“Are you dying? Bleeding? If not, it can wait until morning.” River grumbled and flopped onto his back, throwing his blanket over his face.

“River, I think I made Finn mad at me.” Alec tugged at the comforter obscuring his friend from view. River sat up very slowly. He stared at Alec and frowned.

“What do you mean? I thought you were meeting up to talk out the party fiasco? How did you ruin that?” River rubbed sleep from his eyes, yawning wide.

“I don’t know. I have no idea what happened. We were talking and then he asked me how I saw him and I said I didn’t understand. After that he barely talked to me. He wasn’t himself and I know I said something wrong but I don’t understand why.” Alec rambled, nerves fraying again.

“You’re stupid. That’s why. I’ve told you more than once that Finn bends over backwards for you. He puts in an abnormal amount of effort. He likes you, Alec. Like as more than a friend. I really don’t know how I can spell this out any more.”

River swung his legs over the side of the bed, glaring rather judgmentally down at Alec, “Please tell me you didn’t roll out your, ‘we’re from different worlds!’ monologue. If you did, I’m going to kick you. This isn’t some melodramatic rom-com.

“I did say I didn’t know why he wanted us to be friends.” Alec shrugged, rubbing the back of his head.

“Where do you want to be kicked? I’m leaning towards your face. That way you remember.” River’s eyes were narrowed, arms crossed over his chest.

“What did he mean by, ‘how do you see me?’ I am so confused River. I don’t know how the conversation went up in flames so fast.” Alec groaned, throwing himself backward and wincing when his spine met the hard floor.

“How are you a straight ‘A’ student while being so naïve and stupid?” River rubbed his fingertips against his eyes, “He was trying to see if you were on the same page. Again, he likes you. For his effort, he gets yelled at or you are constantly running from him. Sometimes literally!”

“You really think…you think Finn likes me? Why?” Alec stared down at his hands in his lap, insecurity thrashing about in his stomach and mind.

Hell if I know! You haven’t made it easy for him!” River scoffed. At Alec’s pained expression, River took a deep breath. He let his head fall back and Alec watched the floppy part of his undercut flare out behind his head.

River took a an even deeper breath, “Alec, you’re so blind. Ask him how he feels. Well, maybe wait until you fix your thoughts. I cannot imagine the state of your brain right now.”

“He’s angry, though. What if I make it worse?” Alec closed his eyes, picturing Finn’s blank face. He shook his head at the unpleasant image. He replaced it with the beaming, golden, backlit, happy Finn that his brain supplied any time someone mentioned the other’s name.

“I guess you’ll have to apologize. Maybe you should invite him out for once.”

“The thought of that made my stomach twist.” Alec complained. River let out a frustrated huff, throwing himself back into his covers. Conversation forcibly ended; Alec rolled to lay on his side facing away from River. Was his friend right? River had been teasing him over the last few weeks, but was there truth to his words? Did Finn have…feelings for him? Is that why he was so upset when Alec hadn’t responded the “right” way?

Alec slid his phone from his pocket, reluctantly unlocking the screen. His thumb hovered over the messaging app and he bit his lip. He ran fingers through his unruly hair and yanked his blankets up higher. It was as if he thought he could hide from all of it with just a thin comforter. He tapped the app and touched the most recent conversation.

He wasn’t good at this type of thing, but he’d never get better if he didn’t practice.

👋🏻
 

Poor little Alec. He’s so bad at things.

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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@ClosetWriter there’s gonna be a lot of hurt unfortunately 

That’s being said. There’s always more than just angst even though it’s my favorite 

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So we have two clueless teens, one with severe anxiety issues, the other afraid to admit and/or express same sex attraction.  We have to hope River can negotiate some sort of communication, it seems doubtful our heroes can work this out on their own.

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Clancy59

Posted (edited)

Alec is fully aware of his issues.  He told Finn about some of them previously, like the no-touching rule.  

The problem is that his parents have turned a blind eye to them.  They think that having him go to those homeschooler social groups and now enrolling him cold turkey in public high school will make him a normal, social, popular kid.  They are totally oblivious to his issues.  

Please understand that I am not denigrating homeschooling.  It has its place.  However, if not done correctly and overseen properly, it can lead to a slew of problems.  

If a child has issues, like Alec obviously does, like anxiety, it needs to be diagnosed and treated.  Parents are often the last people to see this kind of issue because they think this is normal behavior.  Classroom teachers are often the first to raise the issue and ask for further intervention for a child when needed.  This comes with the experience of dealing with, literally, hundreds of children over the course of just a few years.  Even novice teachers can see problems and ask veteran teachers for help in evaluating students.  No child is put through the rigors of this kind of testing lightly.  Other interventions are tried first.

Sorry for the lecture.  The point I am trying to make is that Alec’s parents did him no favor in homeschooling him.  Even if he has a superior intellect, there are enrichment programs available that would have challenged him quite sufficiently and provided a better chance at socialization.

Edited by Clancy59
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Sometimes not even Drs can see the forest for the trees. A great many people, and certainly teens and preteens either put up walls to keep others out (Alec) or even being terribly introverted they put on a false bravado and act as a super extrovert (Finn). Either extreme can lead to suicide.

"How do you see me?" is a cry for help! A cryptic call for help from someone whose fear of being discovered or uncovered for what he thinks he 'is' may trigger taking a step too far. One that they can't take back. 

Finn is in a place where he may harm himself. 

Hopefully Alex hits 'send' and Finn picks up.

Edited by Anton_Cloche
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