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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.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Trash Polka - 11. Chapter 11

My apartment was too cold. My feet were freezing. It didn’t help that I’d been sitting cross-legged for a number of hours. My body’s circulation to my legs was not working and I had no one to blame but myself. I sat up straighter, twisting this way and that until my back cracked. This was slightly harder to do when I refused to put my paintbrush down. There was no time. No time for proper stretching and no time to stop painting when I’d been bitten by the inspiration bug.

I melted into my normal horrendous posture as I dipped my brush into the paint. I drug its tip in a broad stroke and relaxed into my zone again. I’d been off work for a while. I wasn’t sure how long. It had to be a few hours at least because my legs were asleep and the aforementioned need to stretch. There was music drifting around the apartment as I worked, but it wasn’t registering. It had a heavy, chugging beat and it scratched my brain just enough while I worked. I’d lost track of how many songs had played too.

Humming softly, I painted on more lines. I worked from the part of the wall closest to the floor, up. More paint, drag lines, sit back to take it in, repeat. On and on. Until something ruined my perfect concentration. I sat back, noting the pain in my lower back was sharper now. Surveying the immediate area around me, I tried to figure out what had broken my concentration. My phone was vibrating. Incessantly. The way it did when someone was calling instead of texting. Aka, the worst slight a human could commit.
Setting my brush down, I pulled the offensive device over. I cringed when I saw it was nearly four in the morning. I had to work later on today. A frown pulled at my features as I saw August’s face on the screen, “Auggie?”

“Hey! What are you doing? Shit, what time is it? Oh crap, it’s really early there. Damn, that’s my bad bro!” He was shouting over a lot of background noise and I flinched at all the volume.

“It is late, or early. Depending on who you ask.”

“You don’t sound tired. Have you not gone to bed?” It was a touch quieter and it sounded like August was moving away from the worst of the noise.

“I have not. I was painting.”

“Damn it! Did I disrupt your flow?”

I laughed, “It’s fine August. I should have already gone to bed. What’s up?”

At first I thought that all August wanted to talk about was his band’s current tour. This was the first one where they’d gone abroad and he was giddy. Like a kid in a candy store. They had a decent number of shows which didn’t allow for a lot of sightseeing, but the band was doing as much as they could. A tinge of jealousy colored my inner monologue as he spoke. I’d always wanted to travel. Sighing softly, so that he couldn’t hear, I began packing up my paint supplies.

“Have you talked to Sage at all?”

I’d progressed from sealing my paints to rinsing my brushes and the water cup I kept with me when I worked. I stood at my kitchen sink and tried to remember when I’d last spoken with my friend’s boyfriend. I liked Sage. We got along and had been friends before he started dating Auggie. The issue with our friendship is neither of us were good at keeping in touch. I’d remember to reach out eventually, but if no one reminded Sage that other humans existed, I wasn’t sure he’d notice.

“I have not talked to him. No. Have you?”

“Ah, kind of. We’ve texted a bit, but you know how he is. Plus, he shuts down when I ramble at him like this. I think it’s too much for him, ya know? He gets overstimulated so easily. Unfortunately, I am overstimulating normally, so add me getting excited on top of it, and it’s like his worst nightmare.”

I’m not sure I would ever understand how my friend managed to speak so quickly. All I could do was try to keep up and stab my input in when he had to breathe. His rapid, excited chatter was something I really enjoyed. It gave me time to be quiet and focusing on the one hundred words a minute meant my brain didn't have a chance to stray at all.

“I think I’m too much for him sometimes.”

August’s surroundings were very quiet now and his words had slowed considerably. I frowned in the middle of pulling my shirt over my head. Dropping to sit on the edge of my bed, I frowned, “Auggie, Sage loves you.”

“Yeah,” He laughed softly but the sound was humorless, “Does he, though? He doesn’t really love like anyone else I’ve ever seen.”

“Sage doesn’t do anything like anyone else. You know that. His brain works differently. He processes differently and struggles to emote. Again, you know all of that.”

“You’re right.” August sighed heavily.

“So, if you know all of that, what’s going on in that brain of yours? Is it the distance?”

That laugh again, “You’re right, I’m sure.”

I paused, straining my ears to make out the soft noises coming over the line. August’s breathing was faster than normal. That could be from his earlier excitement, or what I expected was his growing distress. Rubbing the back of my neck, I let myself fall backwards onto my bed. A plastic, paper crinkling sound followed by another that had to be a lighter. Then there was a deep inhale and exhale.

“Talk to me. What is it?”

“Before I left, he mentioned that it might be better if we lived separately when I wasn’t touring.”

My frown deepened, “That’s weird. You haven’t lived together long. Is this like…a breakup?”

“He said it wasn’t but I never know what he’s thinking. His face is always blank and he says things so casually. Then I get upset and he looks at me like he has no idea how to respond. Which might be true. He doesn’t understand when people have ‘big emotions’. That’s what his mom says.”

“Did you talk about it when you weren’t upset?”

“I didn’t have time. I left the next day for the tour.” I closed my eyes. If I frowned anymore, it might be a permanent expression. He’d been gone for a while now. Why was I just now hearing about how torn up he’d been? For days apparently.

“August, why didn’t you say anything before now?”

“We’ve been busy and the time zones are different.” His voice got very quiet as he added, “I didn’t want to bother you.”

“Next time you’re home, I’m going to smack you. You’re not a bother. Especially if you need me, you idiot.”

A rough exhale, “I’m sorry. I know.”

“Alright. We agree. August is upset. August talks to River. Now, you need to talk to Sage about this when your emotions aren’t dialed all the way up to one hundred. You need to be calm or the conversation will go nowhere.”

“That makes sense.” August sighed.

“That’s all you can do. If you start deciding how Sage feels or what he meant without clarifying with the man himself, you’re going to drive yourself crazy. Or have a heart attack. Let’s avoid a mental breakdown if we can.”

“Okay. You’re right.” August agreed. His voice was stronger now, more confident and I let a small smile pull at my lips, “Thank you River.”

“Of course.”

“You should sleep. I’ll call you the next time I get a chance. We’ll be in Australia soon!”

“Sounds good. Bye man.”

We hung up and I laid on my bed, staring at the ceiling and sighing. I’d been tired when I left work. It’d been worse when I stopped painting to focus on August. It had hit an even worse low now. The conversation had worn me out in new and exciting ways and I rolled onto my side. Curling my knees to my chest, I closed my eyes. At least sleep came easily for once.

 

My wall was not cooperating. I frowned at the talons I was working on. They didn’t look right for some reason, but I couldn’t nail down why. I stared as I slid my phone from my pocket, swiping up to unlock it and navigating my way to my messages.

[K: Friday then?]

[R: Yes.]

[R: Let me know where to send the flowers.]

[K: What?]

[R: Oh, I just assumed your family would put you in a home due to the early onset dementia. My mistake.]
[R: We’ve already confirmed at least twice. You nervous Ken-Ken?]

[K: I’d dare you to go an entire day without an attitude but I think you might implode if you tried.]

[R: Oh, you’re so witty. Hot.]

I smiled as I tilted my head this way and that. What the hell was off with this dragon’s damn foot? I turned away, tiptoeing around a few drops of paint. I walked to my room and stepped up onto my bed. People thought it was strange that I only had a very low platform underneath it, but how else would I be able to just walk from the floor to the bed? I scanned my shelves and rubbed my cheek as I read the spines.

[K: I suppose I should focus on you calling me hot instead of the sarcasm.]

Yet another goofy smile from me and I stepped forward, “Aha!”

I pulled out the worn Monster Manuel I’d had since high school and plopped down cross-legged on my bed as I started to flip through it. Running my fingertip along the drawing in the book, I nodded, stood, and returned the book to its home. Making my way back out to the living room, I scratched the back of my head.

[R: You are hot, but I feel like my sarcasm should always be acknowledged. I work hard on it.]

[K: You need to work hard on your attitude.]

[K: Maybe use some of the energy you allot every day for sarcasm towards it. Just a thought.]

 

Staring at my calendar for the weekend, I groaned. My week had been filled with my normal tattooing (purple and blue), picture planning (orange), and picture taking (red). I scrolled through the calendar on my phone and grimaced. Tomorrow was already Friday. It was blocked out with a lighter blue, almost pastel with aggressive little question marks. I had no idea what to call it. Was it a date? A meeting? As far as I knew, it wasn’t going to be sexual or romantic. In fact, Kenji had made it seem very business-like. I rolled my head on my shoulders as I thought. He hadn’t given me much to go on. All he’d said was that we were going to continue the very short conversation we’d had about the lifestyle he preferred. Were we going to establish limits and boundaries? Would this meeting lead to something physical right away?

Kenji and I hadn’t texted much in the last few days. Both of us had been busy. Not unusual for adults, but I was getting nervous. What if he was expecting something different? What if he thought we were just going to go at it on sight? I shook my head as my eyes flicked to the pink outlining Saturday. He didn’t seem like the type to spring it on me. If anything, he’d been flirty but respectful. He was also direct. I rolled my eyes at myself. The best way to get questions answered was to ask them.

[R: What’s the plan for tomorrow? Am I supposed to dress a certain way?]

[K: There is not a dress code. I land in the evening tomorrow, so I’m sure I’ll look a little disheveled at best. As for the “plan”, I thought we’d just talk. You said you were unfamiliar with D/s so I thought we could start there.]

[R: That sounds scintillating.]

I sat down at my desk chair, clicking around on my computer as I began to edit the next batch of pictures. These wouldn’t go up for a couple weeks, but I’d rather work ahead. I had an unnerving ability when I edited to detach myself from the person in the pictures. Sure, the person I was staring at had the same bubblegum pink hair and the same tattoos, but I didn’t see me. It was better this way. It made it easier to pick apart all my flaws without hurting my feelings. Usually. These pictures were far simpler than the ones I’d done with August. My hair was curled a bit and I had on some eyeliner. But it was just me in a hotel room, wearing a lot of lace.

[K: I’m sure it will be…interesting. Just wear something similar to what you did the other night you were there.]

[R: I just wanted to know if I should plan for anything.]

[K: My, my, River. Do you have something planned for us?]

[R: I didn’t say that. I was just trying to prepare.]

I rolled my eyes at myself and took it out on one of the pictures. My hand was in an awkward position and I kind of looked like a weird lacey bird. Being on the taller side, sometimes my limbs just looked strange. Alec repeatedly told me they were fine, but I couldn’t be reasoned with. My legs and arms were far too long in my eyes and if they weren’t positioned just right, I looked like a freak.

[K: There’s nothing to plan for. We’re simply meeting to have a conversation.]

I huffed out a humorless laugh, “Yeah, easy to say when your normal wardrobe is three-piece suits and you look gorgeous just existing.”

I had a feeling he’d be dressed to the nines, no matter what he said about flying. I had to at least rise to his level or I’d feel uncomfortable the whole time. Leaning back dangerously in my desk chair, I held my phone above my face as I waited for his reply. My mental inventory of my closet wasn’t really helping me envision the right outfit and I wanted to look good. Feeling good in your skin and clothes was the only way to be confident in my eyes. I was coming into this situation at a disadvantage already. We didn’t really know each other besides texting and our short meeting in the shop. On top of that, he knew about this lifestyle while I didn’t. I hated going into something blind. I’d done research, but it just didn’t seem like enough.

[K: Do I make you nervous?]

I scowled at the message. He’d caught me in a moment of insecurity. He didn’t know that and I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell him. I laid my phone on my chest. Then I stretched my hands above my head, watching my fingers move and turn. This way and that, my hands moved. I dropped them to place my hands on my chest with my phone as I let my eyes slip closed.

Why was I so nervous? He was just a man. If things didn’t work out, I’d never have to see him again and I could pretend like none of this had ever happened. I could tell myself I’d never spent weeks texting a guy I’d barely met. I could imagine a life where I hadn’t heard his perfect voice on the other end of a phone call. I could do all of that now if I wanted. I didn’t have to message back. I didn’t have to go tomorrow either.

That was the issue. I wanted to. I wanted to remember all our messages because they’d been entertaining. I hadn’t really done this with another person who wasn’t one of my friends in a long time. Since I’d decided years ago that I wasn’t the relationship sort. When I had resigned myself to messy hookups in clubs or sloppy arrangements made on apps. Somehow, Kenji had become someone I talked to often and it was comfortable. I liked it. I opened my eyes to glance back at his message as something in me stirred.

He does.

Make me nervous that is. Partly because of what we might get involved in and partly because I was dangerously close to the conclusion that if I gave this a chance, I might like the guy. A small corner of my brain whispered softly that I already liked him or I wouldn’t have kept up communication. I wouldn’t be meeting up with him. So yes. The answer was yes. Kenji made me nervous and it was a feeling completely alien to me.

[R: Of course not. Geez. I just didn’t want to be over or under dressed.]

[K: Sure. I’ll see you tomorrow. Good night.]

 

Lukas' loud laugh broke me out of a staring contest I’d been having with one of the walls in my room. I focused on the noise. He was upfront and I could make out Cameron talking quietly. Lukas laughed again. It was pouring outside and the number of walk-ins had been dismal. I had a session scheduled for a bit later, but I had no idea what Lukas’ day looked like. I meandered up to the front and dramatically covered my eyes.

Cameron was sitting on the counter, Lukas standing between his husband’s knees on the side closest to the front door. Cam turned to throw me a dirty look. As if he didn’t have hands on his ass. I made a show of lifting my other hand so I could cover both eyes.

“Don’t be a child.” Cameron sighed and I heard movement.

“Honestly, Riv, you’ve seen worse.” Lukas laughed when I peeked carefully through my fingers. He grinned at me as he stepped back to let Cameron off the counter. I dropped my hands and smirked at the faint blush on his cheeks.

“I’ve seen all of both of you. Doesn’t mean I want to watch you grope each other. I have to witness enough of that when we all go out together. It’s gross.”

“Jealousy is a good look for you.” Cameron said as he walked around the counter to plop into the chair.

“Oh, yeah. Totally jealous of you making goo-goo eyes at each other.” I stepped to the windows, watching the rain fall and frowning.

The least the universe could do was give me a nice day with lots of impulsive people that wanted to get stabbed. It’d help me take my mind off that fact that in a matter of hours, I’d be face to face with Kenji again. Alas, no such luck.

“Ya know River, I have a friend who just moved to the area. We were thinking of getting together tonight. If you don’t like him you’d at least have Cameron to keep you company. You know how he hates when he has to socialize with people he doesn’t know.”

“Or people he does.” I said, laughing at Cam’s sharp grin.

“He’s been getting better! We went out with my brother and his girlfriend and Cameron actually recommended shampoo to her!”

At the raise of my eyebrows, Cameron scoffed, “What I said was, she should use a new one if her hair continued to look like straw.”

That made a lot more sense. I watched Lukas pull at his curls and then he blinked and looked at me again, “You didn’t say yes or no. You want to come tonight?”

I sighed internally. I had hoped he wouldn’t notice and I wouldn’t have to give him an excuse. I rarely had a reason to turn down their invites. They knew me. If I was free the next day, the chances of me going out were high. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d turned them down.

“Uh, actually I can’t.”

Cameron’s seat squeaking brought my focus to him. His eyes had narrowed at me and I saw the gears in his mind turning. I smiled and was thankful for the conversation. It helped settle me a bit. Not enough though. I was still thinking about what to wear and how the conversation was going to go. I didn’t know Kenji well enough to plan it out in my head. At least Xi wasn’t a club my friends frequented. Other than Auggie, I didn’t even think they could get in.

“Yeah, I already made plans.” I said smiling.

“With someone?” Lukas said, eyes bright.

“I am meeting someone, yes.”

 

“Heylo?”

“River?”

I paused. I was going to stop answering when people called me. First my mother had called with her breakdown and then Auggie's relationship drama. Now Alec sounded like he was about to do the same. His voice wasn't wet the way my mother’s had been from the start, so that was working in my favor. Either way, I was on high alert.

“What’s going on?”

“Are you busy? Sorry, you’re at work, aren’t you? Jesus, I didn’t realize what time it was.” That starter was eerily familiar.

“Alright, hang on. I am at work, but I’m not busy. What’s going on?”

“I don’t even know. They tweaked my medication. I haven’t been sleeping either. I’m supposed to have a meeting on Monday to see if we’re going to move forward with the second game and-“

“Wait, wait. Just hang on. You’ve been taking your medication as directed even though they tweaked it?”

Some sniffling, “Yes.”

“When’s the last time you slept and for how long did you sleep?”

“What’s today?”

“Jesus Alec. Are you home?”

“Yes.” Continued sniffles.

“Okay, I’ll talk to Lucas and then I’ll head to you.”

“Thank you. I’m sorry.”

“I’ll be there soon.”

I let my head drop into my hands as the call ended. I felt tired very suddenly, but I shrugged it off. Alec needed me and I would just have to figure out whatever was going on with my life later. Rubbing my cheek, I stood slowly from my chair. Alec wasn’t…fragile, but I’d been his main support system since I was 17 years old. Now more than a decade later, what was I going to do? Blow him off when he reached out? There wasn’t anyone who knew him better. They couldn’t read the subtle changes in his body language or tone the way I could. Sure, Lukas or August would check on him if they thought something was wrong, but Lukas didn’t have a lot of free time and I wasn’t sure Auggie was Alec’s favorite person.

So that left me. I loved my friends, but it was starting to feel like I was patching up their tears and holes with pieces of myself. I’d been doing it all my life. It was one of the first things my mother taught me. How to give and give to make sure everyone around me was happy. My own happiness wasn’t important to her at the time, so it’d stopped being a priority of mine as well. That was something I should really address. Sometime. Hopefully soon, but first, there was someone who needed me.

A loved one full of holes in need of patching.

Copyright © 2024 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.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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So River is used to "patching up their tears and holes with pieces of myself. I’d been doing it all my life"(great line, by the way), but he still lives within himself more often than not.  He loses time with his obsessions, but then I think this describes a lot of artists.  We were never allowed inside River and Kenji's relationship before, I wonder how Kenji will handle River's occasional complete self absorption.  Or is Kenji what River needs to temper his OCD?

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This man... Kenji my dude, time to step the fuck up.

 

Seriously good chapter, boss. Like, really really.

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