Alexi tried to go to sleep, he really did. But his mind was in overdrive. Strangely, it wasn’t the night’s events that kept him awake. Well, not the BAD things, that is. Sure, the whole thing was fucked up, but he somehow managed to lock it up, at least temporarily. ‘Jesus, when a poor psychiatrist gets a peek inside my head one day, they’ll be in line for therapy right next to me.’
He would revisit those thoughts when the time came, he was sure. But he didn’t want to deal with them right then. What was the point, anyway? He, Hunter and Evan were alright. God, Evan…Alexi closed his eyes and envisioned the boy’s face. HIS boy. His boyfriend! A huge smile spread across Alexi’s face and he was sure it was enough to illuminate the dark room. Well, it only made sense. This new feeling, this new emotion, burned so brightly inside of him, that it was only natural to show on the outside as well. Alexi imagined a radioactive green radiating from him and started giggling. He really didn’t understand what Evan could possibly see in him, but he didn’t want to think too much about that. He was sure that, if he overthought the situation, he would depress himself. He would look in the mirror and find himself lacking. Such thoughts were dangerous. He didn’t need his self-confidence to spiral down into the dark hole in which it had resided for so long.
No, Evan loved him. He was sure of it. And whatever the reason, he felt blessed and the last thing he wanted was to tempt fate by asking too many questions. But there was still a lingering doubt. An idea taking seed, that when Evan has time to actually take a good long look at him or spend enough time in his presence, he’d realize what a terrible mistake he had make and kick Alexi to the curb. ‘Better to have loved and lost, eh?’ he thought. Well, if that day were to come, he didn’t want to think about it anymore. He didn’t want to bring it about himself. He’ll gladly close his eyes and let the warm emotion envelop him for as long as Evan would have him. If he were to be discarded, he’d rather not have a countdown and just bask in the glow of that love. He didn’t want to think about the future for one more second. For now, he had Evan and it was all that mattered. ‘Ignorance is bliss’.
“Yo, Alexi!” Hunter’s voice broke Alexi’s train of thought. “Dude, you awake?” Hunter asked, shaking Alexi.
Alexi groaned loudly. He hadn’t even heard Hunter come into his room. “Ugh. I am now, aren’t I, you little fuggrghhhrr…” he mumbled, turning his head and burying his face in the pillow.
“Right, well…Ummm, I couldn’t sleep.” Hunter said, a bit sheepishly, fidgeting in place. “I thought, maybe, you know…we could talk or, you know, you’d at least keep me company?” he continued, almost timidly.
Alexi didn’t turn his head, but pulled the cover away a bit. “Just get in the bed already.” Hunter grinned and practically jumped next to Alexi. Well, that certainly put all thoughts of sleep from Alexi’s head, as Hunter’s impact almost made him bounce. “Okay, no more coffee for you.”
Hunter settled down. “Sorry. It’s just…I used to do this sort of thing with Bran, when I had a bad dream. It’s just…nice, you know?” Alexi finished in a murmur.
Alexi sat up, resting his back against the headboard, pulling Hunter close to him. It was a bit awkward at first, but then Hunter leaned his soft cheek against Alexi’s shoulder and accepted his new brother’s comforting touch. “So, what’s on your mind, bro?” Alexi asked, breaking the silence after a while.
“It’s just…tonight, you know? That was some messed up shit.”
“Yeah. Next time you run away, your ass is on its own. God, I still can’t believe I agreed to stay the night. I should’ve just dragged you back.”
“Yeah, as if you could…gimp.” Hunter said, pulling away abruptly and looking straight into Alexi’s eyes. The room was barely illuminated by the pale glow coming in from a street lamp, but Hunter could still see the hurt in Alexi’s bright green eyes and he felt his heart drop. ‘Fuck, is being an asshole hardwired into me or something?’”I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that. It was a joke.”
“No, goddamn it, it’s not. It was a mean spirited joke. I wanted to hurt you. I thought I was over all that shit, but I guess tonight really rattled me.”
“Do you? You seem just fine with it. Doesn’t it affect you?”
“Of course it does. But…I don’t really know how to explain it. I guess, well, I’ve just been through so much that I’m able to kinda take it for now. I don’t know, accept it, I guess.”
“More like bottling up, it sounds to me.”
“Maybe…” Alexi shrugged his shoulders, half in acknowledgement, half in surrender.
“But what if you snap one day?”
Alexi gave a short bark of laughter. “Well, then I suppose you’ll need to keep me away from any guns and clock towers when it happens.”
“SO not funny.”
“I suppose. But I’m serious. I’m counting on you to be there. And I hope you can someday feel the same about me.”
“Already do. That’s why I’m here right now, dude.” Hunter said, smiling. The two boys stared at each other for a while, then they fell into a heartfelt embrace. Again, Alexi felt that powerful sense of safety and comfort. He felt it with Evan as well. It was a bit…different. It wasn’t born of the same kind of love, but it was just as strong and meaningful.
“I’ve gotta say, dude…” Hunter continued when they broke apart from each other’s embrace “Evan kinda scared the crap out of me.”
“What?” Alexi asked in bewilderment.
”Yeah. Well, the whole puddle of blood on the floor thing messed me up, but…well, Evan was the one who, you know, CAUSED the puddle.”
“Dude, where do you think the blood came from? It wasn’t Evan’s…He was cut a bit from the glass, but other than that, not a sign on him. He must’ve messed that guy up pretty badly. There was just a lot of blood.”
“Where are you going with this?” Alexi asked, narrowing his eyes. What Hunter was saying resonated with Alexi on some level. He knew that. After all, he had spilled his guts, quite literally, when he saw that living room. But it sounded to him like Hunter was…accusing Evan of something.
“Well, nowhere. Don’t get mad at me, okay? I know you like the guy…”
“I love him!”
“Whoa! You barely know him, dude. How can you say that?”
“I have no idea, but I know what I’m feeling. I know how my heart starts going crazy when I think of him, how my stomach is in knots when I miss him and how safe I feel when I’m with him. I feel like I belong when I’m by his side. Maybe he doesn’t feel the same about me, Hunter, but as God is my witness, I LOVE him.”
“Okay, okay. Sorry, don’t get defensive. I’m…I’m happy for you. But, it’s just that, he said those guys ran away, but their truck was still there, and he told us to stay in the bathroom for a few minutes, while he did God knows what. Dude, I’m just saying…I have a bad feeling about the guy. I’m sorry, but I just do. I think you need to be careful around him.”
“Nice way to show gratitude, asswipe! He saved both our lives. And for me, that’s the second time he’s done it. What does he need to do in order to prove he’s one of the good guys? Take the guys who SHOT at us to the ER? Maybe kiss their boo-boo, make it all better?” Alexi asked, rolling his eyes sarcastically. “Honestly, you’re some piece of work!”
“Okay, I’m sorry. Please, believe me. Like I said, it’s just that the whole thing kinda shook me a bit, that’s all. You’re right, he’s a good guy. And if he makes you happy, even better. I’m honestly glad you love him and as long as he returns that emotion, the kind of love you deserve, then I’m happy for you. Both of you…”
“Thanks, Hunter. You just have no idea how much he means to me right now.”
“Well, I hope to understand one day, if I’m lucky enough to find someone.”
“A hunk like you? Yeah, THAT’ll be a problem.” And they both started chuckling.
“So…what are you gonna do about school?” Hunter asked once they became serious and silence had settled.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you know…they’re all gonna know.”
“Know what?” Alexi asked nervously. He felt pressure building in his stomach.
“About you being gay. Matt’s been babbling about it to everyone who would listen all day Saturday. When I was at the lake, before you guys came up, I got a few calls from friends at school, to “let me in” on the secret or something, I guess.”
“Oh, fuck. Oh, fuck…” Alexi started rambling. “Christ, what AM I going to do?”
“Well, chill, okay? Most people really won’t care. I’m sure quite a lot of people knew about Evan, if not everyone, but they never gave him any shit about it.” Hunter paused and rubbed at his chin thoughtfully. “Well, not after he kicked Matt’s ass last year, anyway.”
“Well, that’s just great. I either need to beat him over the head with my cane, or cling to Evan in the hopes that he’ll protect me 24/7.”
“Oh, relax, will you, ya little sissy? You’re not alone in school, you know? I’m there as well.” Alexi snorted. “What? You think I’m useless or something? I’ll have you know, just because I hide in bathtubs when armed men break in, it doesn’t mean I’m a coward!” Hunter huffed indignantly.
“Okay, okay. Settle down, bad boy. Didn’t mean to wound your pride. I guess I’m just a little scared. Well, A LOT…”
“I told you, don’t worry. Most people don’t really care. Sure, they’ll whisper and gossip and maybe stare a bit at first, but that’s just because of the novelty of the thing. Pretty much like a foreign exchange student or something. After a while, they’ll settle down. If you actually decide to come out, that is.”
“But you said…”
“Yeah, but it’s still Matt’s word against yours. That’s why I asked you how you’re gonna deal with it. You can deny it. Heck, after Evan kicked his ass, a lot of people could see this whole thing as his pathetic attempt to get back at you or something.”
“Fuck, high-school politics make Congress look easy.”
Alexi thought about the situation. Hunter was right. He could deny it. And most people would probably believe him. But that night with Hunter, the following morning with his parents…he had decided to stop lying about it and he was adamant in his resolve. No more lying. There was the option of ignoring it all. Go the “no comment” route. But that would just further fuel the flames of hearsay. And he’d rather have the gossip out of the way as soon as possible. It was like Hunter said, they’d get over it eventually. By neither admitting nor denying the “allegations”, he would only prolong his own misery, by giving the rumormongers ammunition for weeks, possibly more.
“Just like a Band-Aid.”
“Rip it off…Get it over with. What’s the worst that can happen? I’ve had crazed men with guns try to kill me twice this week. I think I can survive a bit of high-school drama, especially if I have Evan with me.” Alexi finished, the smile back on his face, as his thoughts turned back towards his love.
He was sitting at a large, rectangular table, in the corner of the restaurant. It was empty, aside from their own little party. He was glancing around nervously, wiping his sweating palms on his pants once in a while. ‘Fuck, I’m gonna stain them with grease or something.’
“Stop fidgeting, bastard!” Eric said, leaning to whisper in Evan’s ear from the seat to his right. “Behave yourself or it’ll be both our heads. We need to make an impression together, got it? You need to prove yourself worthy, and I need to prove that I’ve done right with you. So stay still, damn you, and straighten your back.”
Evan complied immediately. He was already far taller than Eric, even at 15. And he was very skilled when it came to fighting, but there was something about Eric that brook no argument. It was in those mean, black eyes. A certain emptiness. Something that made him feared. Something that kept Evan in his place.
Evan looked at the good-looking young man sitting across from him. Again, that emptiness. Hosea had a relaxed, somewhat lazy posture. It was the opposite of Eric’s rigor, but he still managed to exude menace. The sneer he gave Evan certainly didn’t help any. Oh, yes, Hosea, didn’t like his younger half-brother. Why would he? Hosea was almost identical to his father. A true heir to the throne. He had barely turned 20, but he still gave off the same unmistakably alpha male vibe that his father did. Whereas Evan was every bit like his mother, except for his height. That he had inherited from his father.
And in came the man himself, Myke Henson, that regal posture of his and all. ‘God, all he needs is a damn mantle and a crown…’ Evan thought. The man came to the table and Hosea, Evan and Eric got to their feet, to show their respect. Henson shook Eric’s hand.
“Dad…” Hosea said, extending his own arm.
Henson barely glanced at Hosea, then ignored him completely and turned to Evan.
“So, my boy. Eric says you’ve been progressing quite nicely. You might actually become useful to me. You see, I love my family, Evan. I really do. It’s the most important thing to me. To most people, I’m sure. That’s why I want you close to me. I won’t actually acknowledge you as my son, I’m afraid. You’re more valuable to me if people don’t know the full extent of our relationship, you understand?” Evan nodded meekly. “But like I said, you’re family and family comes first, so I’ll take care of you. All you have to do is remember who your family is and be ready to help me when the time comes. You can do that, can’t you?” Evan nodded timidly once more. “Good. Good. How ‘bout we drink some wine, eh? Celebrate a bit.” He signaled one of the waiters standing across the room to bring them some drinks.
“I love this restaurant. My great-grandfather opened it in 1928. It’s where it all started, boys. Our family.” The waiter filled their glasses. “Drink up, drink up.”
“What are we celebrating, dad?” Hosea asked.
“Why, family, of course, son.” Henson responded, turning to his son. “And your new business arrangement.”
Hosea swallowed nervously. “My what?”
“Now, now, don’t be modest. I know all about your little plans. Well, GRAND plans, really.” Henson turned his gaze back to Evan. “Your brother…he’s a sneaky one, he is. Well, can’t really say I’m surprised. I was just as ambitious at his age. Not as stupid, but still, the always reaching for the sky.”
“Dad, I…It’s not like that. It was meant for you. I mean, sure, I made the deal, but you’d be the beneficiary in the end.”
“Will you listen to that? Beneficiary, he says…Makes me laugh, he does. You don’t have his sense of humor, do you, Evan?” Evan shook his head from side to side. “Yes, I can see that. You’re serious. Very focused. Eric told me that. That’s good. Very good.”
Myke drained his glass and smiled at Eric. “Good shit, huh?” He pushed his chair from the table a bit and turned to face Hosea. “As I was saying, boy…family. It’s the most important thing to me. And others as well. Do you agree that it’s the number one thing for real men?”
“Yes, dad, of course. You know, I was actually gonna ask Vi to marry me soon.”
“Good, that’s great to hear. So, if you understand the importance of family, can you please tell me why the FUCK did you shoot and kill the Samuels’ son yesterday?”
“Dad…He said it was the best way to do it. That he’d then have better access, take advantage of the situation and hand me…us…YOU the whole business.”
“You fucking killed his son! Do you have any idea the kind of war you’ve started? You fucking moron! Not only do you betray me by making a deal behind my back, a deal that would eventually end with me in a grave, I’m sure, but you put EVERYTHING I’ve built in danger by making a retarded move. Family, Hosea…You tried to destroy one and you betrayed another.” Myke shook his head in disappointment and disgust, then pulled out a pistol.
Evan’s eyes were as big as saucers. He wanted to get the hell out of there. Run and don’t look back. But he was glued to that spot. It was fear, he knew that feeling well, but it was more than that. Was it…curiosity? Yes, he wanted to see how things played out. And there was even more than that. Hosea hated him, so seeing the discomfort, no, the TERROR on his face gave Evan pleasure.
“Evan, you’d never do something as stupid as Hosea, would you?”
“N-n-no, sir.” Evan replied
“I believe you. But damn, boy, you need to be more assertive. Speak up, make yourself heard, impose respect. You’re gonna need that in order to fulfill your potential, son. And I think we’re gonna start making a real man out of ya today. Get up.” Evan’s eyes darted back and forth between his father’s gaze, fixed on Hosea, and his gun, held loosely in his hand, pointing nowhere in particular. “Come on, get to your feet.” Myke repeated, as he got up himself.
Evan stood on trembling feet.
“Come here, close to me.” His father said. And so Evan did. His father’s word, a command in its purest form. Myke pulled him in front of himself. Suddenly, he placed the pistol in Evan’s right hand. Hosea didn’t dare move from his seat. He was sure his father was just trying to scare him, teach him a lesson. Oh, he’d certainly learned it. He’d stay in his place from now on. He had been stupid, alright. He could see that. Ambition got the better of him. But he’d keep his head down, do whatever his dad told him to do, accept any punishment, work his ass off and make his father proud once more.
Myke took hold of Evan’s arm and raised it until the gun was pointed straight at Hosea’s head, then he talked softly in Evan’s ear. “Do it, Evan. Shoot him.”
Evan started trembling and he could see his half-brother experiencing the same reaction. The horror he saw in Hosea’s eyes no longer pleased him. It made his eyes well up with tears. He couldn’t…Surely, his father was kidding. Or trying to scare Hosea. Yeah, that was it…The gun probably wasn’t even loaded. It must’ve been a test as well. His father was testing him. Two birds, one stone, as it were. Teach Hosea a lesson and see if Evan had it in him to do anything he was told, to prove his usefulness. But he still couldn’t do it. An asshole he may be, but Hosea was still his own blood. Half of it, maybe, but it still made him the only living relation he had except for the man who placed the gun in his hand. He just couldn’t.
“Dad…” he whimpered. “Dad, he’s family, you said…”
“ He screwed over his family, Evan. You don’t do that without consequences. Now shoot.”
“Dad, I can’t…”
“Shoot, prove to me how much you love me. Prove to me you’re faithful. Prove that you’re useful and obedient. Prove that you’re mine.”
“Prove that you have more of me in you than you do that dirty whore of a mother. Show me that you don’t deserve to follow her down the gutter.”
“But, dad…” Evan whispered, through sobs.
And he did. He squeezed the trigger and the thunder cracked loudly in the small restaurant. The gore was terrible…and fascinating. Even as he vomited at what he’d done, he understood what the horrible hollowness in Eric’s eyes was. It was the emptiness he’d see in the mirror from that day on. There was no going back now.
Evan woke up covered in cold sweat and shaking. He couldn’t move for a good half hour. If he did, he was afraid he’d collapse to the floor and lay there until he died. But he thought of Alexi. He thought of that sweet soul and how much better than Evan he deserved. He thought about what he had originally set to do and it made him sick. But that would never come to pass. He would make sure of it. He’d die first. He had made his choice and knew then, perhaps better than ever before, that he had chosen well. Alexi was his only chance at salvation. He needed him. He anchored himself in the image of Alexi’s beautiful smile and hauled himself out of bed. He dragged his feet as he went to take a shower and then went to the kitchen for breakfast. Or lunch, as he noticed the clock on the wall. 12:47.
He had barely opened the fridge when Eric came into the kitchen, bleary-eyed and in a foul mood. ‘Heh, at least the fucker didn’t get much rest last night either.’
“You sure made a mess out there.” Eric said coldly.
“Could’ve been worse.” Evan said, shrugging.
“Oh, it certainly could be...” Eric replied, an evil grin spreading on his lips. “Your father wants to see you…”