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    Invnarcel
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Ceramic Flowers - 5. Chapter Five

Corey Kentwell

My idealism repainted the situation to fit a new narrative. Didn't people who fall in love often say that at first they never saw their lover that way? That they started out as friends, or that he/she wasn't their usual type? And so it was with Sebastian. Even though he frequently did or said things that were strange, I knew he had to be the one for me. When you consider the fact that neither of us knew our parents, the fact that I knew no other gay students in my year, and most importantly the fact that Sebastian even likes me at all... it becomes pretty clear that we must be meant to be.

Sebastian Fiddock had once been a weird, anti-social loner. Now he was mine – still a little bit weird, yes. But he was my favourite person. I had butterflies around him, and in the few hours before I went to sleep at night. I was frequently light-headed and aglow, as bright as my days had become, and a future I wanted and could hope for.

We hung out together a lot. He even started visiting my house to play video games, though told me his Uncle wouldn't let him have friends over. I felt bad for him when I heard that. It sounded like his Uncle was strict about some things, and strangely lenient about others. I wanted to hold and care for him, but I was also wary.

Friday afternoon, the first time we were alone together in my bedroom, he attacked me.

Lunged on top of me, pressing me onto my bed. The same sudden swiftness that overtook him that night by the lake. I was startled, and honestly scared. I'd lashed out with my hands.

"What are you doing?!"

Sebastian only stopped, still pressed on top of me and making no move to get off. "Is this not okay?"

"What are you doing?" I had to ask again. When I wriggled I felt his erection against my inner thigh and realised.

It should've been obvious to me. But I'd figured sex would come after conversations, plural. And that it'd be after kissing. Weren't there steps? Build up? It wasn't supposed to be rough, like pornography. It wasn't supposed to feel rapey.

That was how I'd envisioned it anyway. And once again, not considering how it may differ from my perfectionist fantasies. I told Sebastian I wasn't ready for sex and he looked unhappy. Really unhappy. Frustrated, with me, and even though that wasn't right of him I felt bad anyway. Or was that right of him? I don't know, I feel new to all of this. But we didn't talk about why I wasn't ready, which I think I'm happy about cause the real reasons are embarrassing. I am... nervous, I suppose. Sebastian is my first boyfriend and I care about him. Also I'm insecure about my body and don't want him to see me naked. I thought that in a rush.

I tried making excuses for Sebastian too. I know he was being inconsiderate, scowling for the rest of that afternoon and making me feel terrible. But I know he's not a bad guy, I know it. He's just... Sebastian. Quiet, strange, standoffish and sometimes moody. He's still my perfect boyfriend.

Saturday he was better.

And Sunday was the day of our lake drive!

I thought for sure Sebastian would be as excited as me when the day came, but again he was embittered. I was dumbfounded. It was like he hadn't wanted to be reminded, like he'd hoped it would just go away. He was friendly enough to my grandparents who suspected nothing of our romantic involvement. They were happy I had a new friend I liked spending time with.

"You know, you don't have to come with me if you really don't want to." I murmured to Sebastian as we drank glasses of fruit juice. Nan was doing a crossword while Pop was working on a puzzle in the other room, it took up the whole of our circular dining table but I knew he'd get it done before dinner.

"I'm coming with you." Sebastian's answer was cross. He paced around the kitchen, unaware of me and only studying his surroundings.

I was sure he'd only been rude to my friends because he was shy. But now I didn't know why; I had no idea why he was acting this way. I stayed quiet.

At midday Zoe rocked up in her Mum's blue Toyota Prius, she honked to get my attention even though I'd been staring out the window waiting. Sebastian wasn't much of a distraction, looking so sullen with his arms crossed and not talking. Nan huffed indignantly, she did not approve of Zoe's actions.

"Alright we're off, see you guys!" I went to go.

"Have fun, boys." Pop called.

"Be back before dinner, Corey!" Nan ordered.

"I will, I will." I turned while halfway out the door, yelling back over Sebastian's shoulder as he ghosted behind me. Noticing that his face was still a mask of displeasure.

We took long steps down the sloping driveway. I was still excited when Zoe wound down the window to shout and wave. It wasn't until we got into her car, Sebastian not even bothering with a 'hello' and sitting only silent in the backseat, that my final fleeting hopes were dashed. I realised he really was going to act this way the entire trip. I felt a pit in my stomach. The noxious waves of animosity floated off Sebastian and tainted the air of the car, like ink spreading through a glass of water. It made me want to open the windows. Before despair consumed me I started forcing conversation with Zoe in an effort to distract myself.

It's too late to cancel now. If Sebastian was going to insist on being unhappy I would insist on ignoring him, and try to salvage what enjoyment I can. Even though it seems doomed.

We drove into the woods, over the hill and I got a beautiful view of the pines as far as the eye could see. The silvery lake to the West. Ahead was another hill lightly touched by a wintry mist on this cloudy day. For almost twenty minutes we drove, and I kept forcing conversation to forget Sebastian's poisonous aura in the back of the car. When Zoe pulled up to a look-out spot I saw a bunch of other familiar cars, school friends. I didn't risk a look at Sebastian in the rear-view mirror, his negativity was so palpable I could feel it.

I opened the door quickly to greet the others. So did Zoe and then Sebastian.

"Hey guys," Lance was here, and beside him his girlfriend Chelsea. Half a dozen of the other regulars. Hailey jumped out to scare me from behind someone's truck.

"Ha!" she started cackling and bent over, frizzy hair shaking. Even smacked her knee. I frowned, though knew my annoyance would only further please her. She noticed Sebastian and soured. "What are you doing here?"

He glared but still wasn't speaking.

"Sup guys," Zoe knew that disregarding Hailey's existence was the only thing that really got to her. She was ahead of the game.

"We're just waiting for a few more then we're going to head out." Lance pointed to the walking path. A few of the other boys were unloading an esky and pool toys. Sebastian stood away from the others but close to my shoulder. I could smell salt so the water mustn't be far.

I said 'hi' to a few people then went to sit on a nearby wooden post. Hailey climbed up and tried balancing with arms out as she stepped across on ballerina toes. Sebastian stood near me, hovering. One of the boys started whacking his friend with a yellow noodle. I flexed my toes in the dirt and dry leaves as we waited. The ground was hard and layered with fine dust. We were all in swimmers but a cold breeze whipped the tops of the trees, I doubt I was gonna fully submerge. When everyone we were waiting on arrived the troupe started moving, someone carrying a giant inflatable unicorn raft and someone else a doughnut floaty. The big esky was carried between two guys.

I left to follow Zoe who was laughing along with them. My social anxiety flared up as soon as I joined the miniature crowd, making me choked up and quiet, even though I could feel Sebastian close behind me. We walked and they joked, Hailey began babbling next to me as we trudged onward and I was grateful for the distraction. Even now I recalled how nice it was to only be in the company of someone as unassuming as Sebastian.

It didn't take long before the lake came into view. Grey, and compared to the dark thistle leaves of the pine trees, all of us in our colourful Hawaiian swimming gear were ridiculously out-of-place. I felt one hit of that chilled wind and decided I wouldn't be swimming at all. We were usually party-hardy about dipping into the lake, even in Winter. But this was too cold for me.

The spot Lance and his friends led us to was nice, but just that. It wasn't anything special. They'd found better spots. A dirt clearing beside the lake. A dull brown-orange rocky surface leading to caves and a cliff-face where waves splashed up and drizzled down. An old rope-swing that was withered. There were intriguing tide-pools. Miniature crabs that scurried away from your view to hide beneath boulders. One frantic fish was circling and waiting for the tide to come out again. If I wasn't feeling up to banter with the crowd I could safely examine this habitat and maybe it'd pique the interest of my angry plus-one.

Sebastian had me feeling emotionally exhausted as the trip wore on. I don't know how he did it, but he successfully leached my happiness as well. I couldn't fight him off.

"Hey who's the new guy following Corey?" I heard Matt Edwards, dark-skinned and the loudest of our group.

"That's Sebastian." Small-framed Lance murmured back. His tone was very clear: we leave him be.

"Hey Sebastian!" Matt called, and some of the other guys who'd never met him also looked over. "Hey!"

Oh no oh no oh no. I noticed him turn in my peripheral. I eyed the ground with grim anticipation, feeling my ears heat up. A few of them did recognize Sebastian as the silent and anti-social kid from school, so to see him out with their friends had them brimming with curiosity.

"Are you gonna swim? Come on bro!"

"Go swim by yourselves!"

I blanched. Thought I'd braced for more uncomfortable rudeness from his end, yet it still shocked me. Everyone else, the entire group, stared at him. It was how tight and taught he'd become. The pure vitriol in his voice. Like his problems weren't just social, but mental. When time passed Matt made a face to his friends and then quiet talking started up again. As for me, I felt embarrassed and also a full-body chill from the crown of my head to the tips of my toes. Sebastian had always been fine when it was just the two of us. But this wasn't nerves, he didn't look shy. He actively disliked everyone here, and like an idiot I'd brought him along anyway. But I couldn't figure out why he didn't like my friends, he'd never given them a chance. Sebastian wasn't normal, and the realisation trickled onto my brain like ice-water.

I almost offered to leave right now, but Zoe had driven us.

The rest of the trip was no longer about trying to enjoy myself, but damage control. I sat with Sebastian away from everyone else and only interacted briefly with a few others, constantly checking in with my plus-one's posture so as not to test his animal anger. When it was time to leave I felt so relieved I could cry.

The entire way home my tone was tinged with apology, though I didn't say sorry with Sebastian in ear-shot. Zoe seemed to understand. She dropped us off at my place just as it was getting dark. I still felt like crying as I waved her off, turning to Sebastian whose pitch eyes were on me, waiting for us to start going up into the house together. He always stood close to me.

"What the hell, Sebastian?" I spat. I was always subdued, so this outburst felt like a runaway car. The fear of it increasing the intensity.

"What?" he remained dull.

"That was awful! You were horrible to everyone!"

"I don't like your friends." He told me, as if that was all there was to say on the matter.

"Why?"

"I'd prefer it if we don't hang out with them again."

There was something decisive about how he said it. And by 'we' I don't think he just meant us together. I could've pushed it but I started walking quickly up the driveway. He followed and I could've told him to leave but didn't. I'm scared of conflict.

"How was it?" Nan peered around the doorway to the kitchen when we came inside. I didn't even have the strength to lie to her, and I was too upset.

"Not good."

"Oh that's a shame. Did something happen?"

"Just wasn't fun. At all." I made my way to the stairs and Sebastian followed.

"Okay... dinner will be ready soon!" I could smell the meat stew as she stirred it in her cauldron-sized pot, it barely fit atop the stove.

Upstairs I paced quickly between rooms and started gathering laundry. I smelt fresh potpourri wafting from the multi-coloured glass bowls atop the dresser. Sebastian lingered and I wanted him to leave. He started being sweet to me, affectionate touching on my arm and back to relax me. I thought it might've been his way of showing that he knew I was upset, but then I noticed him standing even closer and realised what he actually wanted.

Nan called me down for dinner. I was able to convince Sebastian to leave.

Nan and Pop both pointed out how depressed and dejected I looked. They didn't contest when I gave up halfway without finishing the stew. I could feel it spoiling in my belly. Afterwards Nan tried having a talk with me but I couldn't tell her about Sebastian without coming out to her, right then, and I wasn't ready for that conversation. I made up a story of us hitting a wild deer, having to get it to a veterinary hospital only for the ranger to tell us it'd have to be put down.

Between the ages of ten to twelve I'd attempted being vegetarian, though my grandparents would force me to eat meat when they could. I'd considered going vegetarian now that I was older. I was used to eating meat but could go without – I don't like the idea of animals suffering, and the texture weirds me out. Even with this in mind I could tell Nan didn't quite believe my story.

Upstairs in my bedroom I paced around, barefoot on carpet. My computer bathed the small space in sickly blue. I'd still been updating my blog, but carefully in knowing that Sebastian may still be reading it. There is mention of a boy I'd met, that I liked him, that I was seeing him, allusions of me hoping that we might become a thing. I felt torn and confused, halting in place. At my memory the waves of loving fantasy rocked back, swelling my mind. It was so hard to be objective with Sebastian.

Maybe he wasn't so bad. I couldn't stand for my hopes to be wrong. And he's the only boy who's ever liked me.

*

Sebastian had texted me. He was at school waiting for me on Monday morning. Shrugging off the fence as soon as I got off the bus. I farewelled my friends who looked accepting, apart from Hailey who stormed away with her chin out. Zoe walked through the gates with a slanted frown. I stepped over to meet Sebastian, today he was wearing jeans with that same green jacket. Hair looking wild, clutching the strap of his bag.

"Morning."

"Good morning."

We walked in together.

That day I wasn't so talkative but Sebastian didn't mind, simply hanging around me in silence. He was comfortable and so was I, reasonably. We spent every moment we could around each other. At first lunch I overheard the Year Ten girls discussing something while Sebastian bit into a mandarin. It reminded me of something I'd been thinking about earlier that morning.

"You've obviously heard the Tuttle werewolf rumours, right?"

"Nope." He answered between bites. And why doesn't that surprise me?

"The monster that stalks the forest during the full moon? Eating stray hunters?"

"I've been in the woods at night plenty of times and never seen a monster." Sebastian dropped the skins beside him without looking at me, dusted the stickiness off his hands.

"Maybe that's because you're the werewolf..."

"Monsters aren't real." He spoke derisively.

"I know that!" I peered at Sebastian from the corner of my eye but there was nothing to deduce, he sat entirely unguarded.

Recess wore on, I huddled into my jumper against the cold and zoned out staring at some yellow flowers.

Sebastian disrupted me, speaking in a sudden rush "Are we boyfriends now?"

"Um," I was caught off guard, my brain hazed over.

"That's what you wanted, isn't it? You said so in your blog."

I did say that I wanted a boyfriend in my blog. I conceded a "Yes."

"So we're boyfriends now? I know it's only been a week but I'd like us to be."

"Yeah, sure, I'll be your boyfriend."

"Great." He reached into his bag for dry crackers. It seemed like that was all he was going to say on the matter.

I stared at the ground and felt a wave of euphoria but then it transformed into doubt, stifling me. Earlier in the week when I was still blind-sighted and before I'd written that fated blog entry, I'd be ecstatic at the thought of right now. It was what I wanted, a high school romance. Though it felt more of just a thing than romance. But it was still evidence of some kind, reflective of my own self-worth. I wanted this right? Yes, I did. No relationship is perfect, but this is perfect for me. I don't feel alone anymore.

"I want us to have sex." Was the next thing Sebastian blurted.

"I'm sure we will!" I went tight and red. He was again satisfied and resumed eating.

When the bell rang we had English with Mr Clarke, a bald man with a curiously-shaped head, gentle and sexless disposition. He often rambled the same point and still told off students when he found out they weren't paying attention. Even though he was only discussing poetry and movie tropes, I found it eerily reminiscent of my thoughts earlier today.

"'Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings – always darker, emptier and simpler.' a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche." he went on to say "There are no monsters more terrifying than humans. The concepts that became Dracula and Frankenstein were inspired by humans that weren't quite human, either by appearance or nature. Inhuman humans, the real monsters."

Sebastian sat beside me, as bored as everyone else and I wondered.

Copyright © 2020 Invnarcel; All Rights Reserved.

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There are no monsters more terrifying than humans. It says everything which needs to be said. Sebastian is self-centered and controlling. His intent is to divide and conquer. Corey should be listening more to his doubts.

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Sebastian is most certainly a human monster.  Corey sees it, yet lacks the self-confidence to realize he can do better.  There are so many red flags here.  It's only a matter of time before Sebastian does something horrific to Corey.   I can see him guilting Corey into sex, and I can't see him stopping if Corey gets scared or to a point where he says 'no'.   This is the start of an abusive relationship.  It's hard to read (which is a compliment as to how well you're portraying the dynamic ;) ).  

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What is so great is that this story has a lot of great realism.  Not all high school gay boys are nice people. It's not all roses and sunshine.   High school kids lack life experience and don't recognize dangers as well as adults do.   Great story.

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I'm really worried for Corey. I'm especially concerned his friends might end up becoming so alienated by Sebastian that they actually abandon Corey leaving him at the mercy of that psycho. I hope that isn't the case because Corey needs his friends. I wonder if he's confident enough in his friendship with Zoe to mention that he's being pressured into sex.....probably not.

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