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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.

Luke Hanson's Mind & Punishment: A Teen in Despair - 14. Chapter 14 - Assumptions

      Sunday 11:07pm - Luke


I sped into the fair's parking area, coming to a wheel-locking stop. Dust flew up beside my car, and I got out with a cough, clearing grit from my eyes as I ran towards the fair entrance.

"One ticket, please," I said quickly, tapping my foot on the decking floor and darting my eyes all around the entrance, thinking perhaps Leander would appear.

"You realise there is only about an hour left, and we close?"

I was looking through the gate, trying to see if I could get a lucky glimpse of him. Finally, I turned to face the woman again. "What? Oh yeah, fine, that's fine."

She ripped off a ticket from her printing machine, and I ran to the entrance handing it to the doorman. "We close in an hour, mate," he said.

"Yes, I'm aware. This won't take long."

He looked at me strangely, my comment probably sounding stupid, but he waved me in seconds later. 

I tried to walk but ended up running. Going from stall to stall. I passed the rifle range, the basketball hoop thing, the coconut knocking over thing, the hooking ducklings' thing. I then headed straight over to the ride section.

As I ran towards the ghost train, I flicked my view for some reason to the eating area. I don't know why I did it, but I'm so glad I did because there he was. I'd found him.

I was about to run over to him but stopped, dead in my tracks some distance away. He was sitting on a bench with a drink, chatting to, or chatting up a GIRL! A wave of jealousy coursed through my veins and into my thought pattern.

I stood there studying them. Watched as she made him laugh, exposing his beautiful smile and eyes. She kept leaning into him and whispering things into his ear, each time a giggle would escape him.

It was sick to watch. 

I moved in a little. I wanted to get to a position where I could hear the conversation, but I risked being seen any closer. I did want to be seen... I preyed to be seen. But not just yet. 

Don't get me wrong, I know I'm being stupid. He's not mine, is he? I know what you're thinking. He can speak to anyone he wants; it's none of my business. We're not going out; we're not a couple. We're not fucking anything, and that's the problem. Jesus, there is something wrong with me, I know. Don't worry, I know this isn't right, yet I let these feelings continue. I let this rage inside me play out. Because despite what Taz said, I am weak! Weak, weak, weak! Pathetic!

I decided to try a different tactic: move around the fair's perimeter and enter the eating area from another side. This way, Leander and the girl would be facing away from me. It worked as I managed to move in real close, appearing from behind one of the mobile shacks selling burgers. I was now in earshot range.

"She never said that, oh my God!" I heard Leander say. I didn't catch what the girl said, having just manoeuvred myself here.

"Yeah, and then she left him. He was an arse anyway." Said the girl.

"Jeez, I have the same problem in a way. If we're talking about persistent people."

"Oh right?"

"Remember Dan Jacobs?"

"Yeah, from Clarence Park, right?"

"The very one. He won't leave me alone. He's still asking, you know. I think I might give in to him one day."

"It's a good Adventure Park. And If I remember, Dan is really nice. So you like him, right?"

"Yeah, he's lovely, and I want to see him again about things, but Mum would go mad."

"I'll deal with her! Look, it's your life. If you want to be with Dan, then go for it. It's something that's going to make you happy, I can tell."

I'd listened to this for long enough. I was totally confused about what was going on and who Leander fancied in all of this, but whatever brief moment WE had shared seemed far from his mind.

I turned and ordered a hot dog, telling the boy behind the window that I wanted extra friend onions as loud as I could and then turned in the direction of Leander.

I saw his shoulders go up, and he went very still. They were both still facing away from me, and I noted the girl had clocked that Leander had just... changed!

"You okay?" she asked as I stood there, mere feet away. For obvious reasons, she was unaware of my presence or my connection to Leander. If she did hear me, I was just another customer ordering food. But Leander knew. He knew very well who was in his fair. And that person, me,  had heard everything I needed to. Because now, I find out that despite Leander's bullshit about not having a 'desire for any other guys' and his 'alien' feeling', he 'rarely gets' speech. He does have someone he likes. That's along with the girl, whoever she is. Perhaps he was bi! Perhaps he was seeing her and she didn't mind that he also wanted to shack up with this Dan Jacobs. 

I felt terrible for the jealous thoughts that were flooding into my mind. Who have I become? This wasn't me. I didn't have these thoughts before, I'm not that sort of person. 

And yet, there they were, stabbing at me, teasing me, creating havoc in this otherwise placid, easygoing and gentle person!

"Bear? I said, are you okay?" the girl repeated.

"I'm fine," I heard him strain out.

"Do you have indigestion or something?"

"Uh, yeah, something like that. Would you mind going to fetch me some Rennie from the trailer? I just need to sit here for a minute."

"Sure, Bear, be back in a minute. I might nip to the toilet too. You want another drink when I get back?"

"Nah, I'm okay. I might walk the perimeter before we close."

I watched as the girl lifted her slender legs over the bench and walked off into the mix of other people wandering around.

"Here's your Hotdog, mate."

I looked up at the guy trying to pass it to me. I smiled, paid three quid, and threw it straight in the bin to my left. Leander was in the process of turning around to talk to me, but as I saw his face I suddenly lost all my confidence and just burst into tears, starting to jog back to the exit.

"Wait," Leander called.

I carried on, having heard all I needed to. It was a stupid idea to come here. I should not have listened to these conversations, one because they have worsened my already freaked-out brain, and second? Second, how am I different from the stalker that invades my space?

I ran through the exit, across the grass and onto hard gravel, eventually reaching my car. I got in, twisting the key fast and violently. Then, placing it into gear and ready to pull away, I saw two hands come banging down on my bonnet, causing me to slam my foot on the break.

I expected Leander to have an angry expression once I'd turned my attention from his tanned hands and arms to his face. But no. There was no anger, no rage. Just a pleading look. An almost sad look. The look you might give someone when you've just been told an upsetting story and want to hug the person telling it.

I put the car back into neutral and watched as he came around to the passenger side and opened my door.

"Please, don't do anything stupid. You can't drive like this. Look, you're shaking," He said. I looked at my hands on the wheel. They were indeed trembling.

"I need to go home," I chocked, welling up.

Leander seemed to fiddle with something in the back pocket of his jeans before pulling out a set of keys.

"Lock your car up and come with me. Actually, stay here until I reach my car, I'll get it open so we can leave immediately."

I nodded, watching, as he started to walk towards a set of porta-loos but then veered to the left and got into what I recognised as his black Ford Ranger. 

I got out and locked my door, walked over to his vehicle, and stood outside it. He waved at me to get in. His truck was massive compared to what I drove around in, and I had to heave myself into the seat.

Leander quickly pulled away, flexing the car's powerful engine. 

We drove for around two to three minutes before he even spoke a word. I wanted him to speak first, worrying... knowing... that anything I said would be stupid because of what I'd done tonight.

"It's my night off," he eventually said. 

"I didn't know you got a night off."

"There is lots you don't know about me. But yes. I get one night off in nine days. Tonight was one of them."

"Where are we going?"

"Out of town."

"Right, okay," I said softly.

"I am trying so hard to be angry with you right now, but the more I try, the more I can't," Leander said, looking right at me. I didn't look at him back. "What was that stunt tonight?"

"A stupid one. Desperate, you might say." I let my head fall against the window of his car and just stared out of the window, watching everything rush by.

"You know this already, but you put me in a terrible position by doing that, Luke."

"You could have just said I was your friend," I offered, knowing it would not go down well.

Leander didn't respond, but I did hear him sigh. 

He seemed to know where he was going by the different roads he was turning down. So, of course, living around here, I knew where we were. Okay, I didn't know every street, but wherever this journey ended, I was confident I would know where we were.

"Your car smells nice," I said, wanting so bad to break the now awkward silence that had descended since I last spoke.

"Just had it cleaned," was the short answer I got. "But thanks, it usually smells of my dog."

"I didn't know you had a dog."

Leander turned to me. "As I said, there is a lot you don't know about me."

We continued to drive for another ten or so minutes when Leander turned onto a dust track full of dips, exposed tree roots and holes. We bumped around in the truck until we pulled alongside an old abandoned house. Leander turned the car into what I imagined was the front yard in some past life and switched off the engine.

"Are we here?" I asked, looking at the dilapidated one-story house. "How do you know about this place?"

"We used to leave some of our trailers here in the winter. We rented the land surrounding it from a person in the property business. This was before Freemans extended what land we could use for the fair each summer. So now we can fit everything we bring there. We have no need for this place anymore." Leander pointed at the house where a single light shone from the side of it. I was surprised the bulb still worked. "When I was a kid, my cousins and I played inside this house, but Mum said it had become too dangerous, so we were banned."

He smiled as if remembering a pleasant period in this life. This got me thinking. Was he happy?

We exited the truck, and Leander led me through the weeds to a boarded-up front door. With a light tug, he pulled it open, switching on his phone torch.

"Shouldn't we just talk in your truck?"

"I don't want any light escaping; it's better in here. Plus, there are candles we can light."

I followed him in, and we walked into what would have been the kitchen as I noted work units and an old cooker still fixed in. 

"Spooky," I said, a slight shiver running up my back.

"If you look in that drawer, you should find a few boxes of candles, he pointed. Of course, that's if kids haven't been here and taken them."

I went to the drawer he'd pointed at and pulled at it. It was stiff, but it did open, revealing three white boxes. I pulled out a single box and tipped some candles out into my hand. 

"Four enough?"

"Yep, was there a lighter in there?"

"Oh, I didn't check." I looked again in the drawer finding a couple of cheap lighters at the back. grabbing one of them, I lit the first candle and held it out. Leander took it from me, and he walked out into the hallway and into another large room with a couple of table chairs knocked over. He gathered them up and had them facing each other.

As if he had done this before, he tipped the candle upside down, letting the wax fall to the floor before sticking it on to the gloop, causing the candlestick to become rigid and secure. I did the same after watching him and was pleased with myself that my candle didn't fall over and burn the place down. That's the luck I'd been having!

"Are you ready to sit?" he softly asked, gesturing with his hand at the spare seat.

"Sure, just let me light these two."

After securing the other candles to the floor, it looked like we were about to perform a ritual. All we needed to do now was draw a pentagram or pentangle... whatever it's called. I sat down, now feeling like I was being interrogated.

I looked up at Leander, his face was warm, but I could see some weight on his mind.

"I dunno where to start this, really. I didn't think I would be sitting here with you at almost midnight... again."

"I know, I feel such an idiot."

"So what was that? After everything I told you, Luke?"

I threw my hands up. "I know, I know, it was a mad, selfish and a totally out of order thing to do. I just..."

"Go on," he said, putting a finger on my leg for encouragement.

With my eyes fixed on the ceiling, I sighed. "You really don't know, do you?"

"Don't know what?"

"How fucking special and incredible you are. You're cute, funny, intelligent and attractive. I couldn't just let that message you sent be the end."

Leander tilted his head sideways and grinned. "Don't start flattering me, Mister. I am trying to be angry with you, remember."

I let a brief smile evaporate and shifted in my chair. "I'd had a conversation with my Dad. After you'd sent me that message, I was heartbroken. That is so stupid I know, because as I told my Dad, I've known you for about two hours. So with some encouragement from him, I decided that despite what you said, I would come and find you."

Leander nodded. "Which you did."

"When I saw you, I stared at you for a moment. Watching as you were chatting up a girl. My blood ran cold. I felt horrible. I felt betrayed. I felt stupid. And I know... Jesus, I had no right to feel these things because you had made it clear that nothing was going any further between us. Besides that, you can do whatever you want." I paused, taking a deep breath. Leander was listening intently as I reeled off my reasoning.

"She's a very nice girl," Leander said, smiling.

"Yeah, she looked it. Very pretty. So then I felt a little angry at you because I know you're straight or Bi, not entirely either of those but definitely into girls more. So it's quite understandable now I'm done and dusted with; that you could meet a nice girl. I just didn't expect to see it so soon. So anyway, that's..."

"Luke, she's my Sister," he announced, cutting me off.

I lurched forward. "Oh... oh shit, really? I thought..."

Leander shook his head. "Nope." was all he replied with.

"So you're not seeing her?"

Leander pulled a face. "My sister? Pffft, you really have got the wrong idea about us travellers, haven't you!" Leander slapped his knees and laughed.

"Shit, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to ask that. I meant... Well, I was surprised you..."

"I know what you meant; it's fine."

"So, who is Dan?"

"Dan?" Leander asked, squinting. "Dan Jacobs? Wow, how long were you listening?"

"Long enough to hear about him. That was my next question. So he is someone you really like too? You said you only had that 'alien feeling' very rarely, and now it happens to you twice in a week?"

Leander looked at me as if I had offended him. "Luke, Dan Jacobs is a sixty-two-year-old man who owns Clarence Park, the small theme park just outside your town on the other side of the highway. You must know it?"

I was already red with embarrassment, and I hoped the dim light would not show it. "I am so sorry, I thought... well, I thought he was... I mean, you said you really liked him and wanted to see him again. And then you said about your Mum going mad if she caught you with him. I just thought... Jesus, I am such a fool."

"Dan Jacobs has wanted to hire me since I was Seventeen because I can do ride operations and maintenance. His park has many of the same rides we do, and he came down to see what we were about a few years back, then every year we were in town. So I got chatting to him. He is a traveller too but just decided to stay in one place. A contradiction, I know. But he brought a big bit of land and set up his permanent park."

I put my face in my hands and cursed myself under my breath.

"I'm sorry, like really sorry."

"You say sorry far too much!" A smile spread across Leander's face. "You just appeared at an awful time, conversation-wise."

"Why does your sister call you Bear?" I said, suddenly remembering it.

He laughed, leaning back on his chair. "My whole family calls me Bear, not just my sister." He continued to chuckle a little, almost as if he was slightly embarrassed I'd heard the name. 

"So?" I asked, pushing gently for an answer.

"It's because I'm short, a little muscly and hairy."

"But you don't have a hairy chest," I said, observing what I could.

"No, I know, just very hairy legs, arms and stomach. The name is a combination of things... just a name that's stuck, that's all. I think it's because my Brothers are not as hairy as me. Perhaps I just stood out."

"You have Brothers?"

"Yep, five of them."

"FIVE?" I almost yelled. "And a Sister?"

"And a Sister, yes. Just one of those."

"Wow, big family. I'm an only child."

"Yeah, I can tell," He said.

"I'm not going to ask how, but I'm sure it's something to do with my performance since we met."

"You crave love, Luke. It's an instant sign in most cases. When you said just then, you were an only child? Somehow I knew."

"Okay, I said, nodding. "So your brothers and sister. I mean, with the fair..."

"How did Mum find the time?" He said, bursting out laughing loudly.

I shrugged, grinning. "Well, yeah, I mean... well yeah!"

"Don't ask me. But hey, we had plenty of people in our family to look after all of us, so I guess that's why it wasn't so much of an issue."

"So their names... ages?"

"So there is Clyde, who's just turned twenty-five. Then Sam, who is twenty-two. Duke, who is nineteen and twins with my sister Beth. Erm, then me, eighteen and then Sebastian, who's sixteen."

"Wow, you have twins in your family. That must be cool?"

"They're constantly bickering, but yeah, they are close. In fact, they are all close. I'm the odd one out. I prefer to be a nomad out on my own. In fact, I think I spend more time with the rides than I do with any of my siblings. I love them all, of course. It's just who I've grown to be." 

I stood up and started slowly pacing the room, feeling momentarily overwhelmed. The chat had turned relatively light, but I was fully aware that this meet-up was my chance... perhaps my only chance to... well, I don't know, really!

I stopped and returned to my seat. Leander had been following me around the room with his eyes. I had noticed, but said nothing. Perhaps he knew what was coming. He seemed to be very good at that with me.

"Leander, I am so totally into you; it actually fucking hurts. I take on board what you said in your message to me, and for the record, I don't think you're a prick or a wimp. Look, I know what you said about your family. I know there are issues, and I don't want to be the cause of them. But please, I am asking you, probably begging you, not to end us seeing each other. You said yourself that..."

"Luke, stop, please." I was suddenly cut off from my rather pathetic pitch. Leander stood up, placed his hands in the pockets of his shorts, and mirrored my pacing, albeit slower and more collected.

"I've fucked things, haven't I?" I said, feeling I had to speak. Probably making it worse.

"You know, I was in tears when I sent that message. Of all the things I never wanted to do in my life but felt that I had to? Well, that was one of them. Whatever was ignited in me when we met started to burn brighter and brighter, and I was thinking about you every minute while my mind was getting ever more confused about what this actually meant for me. I was all over the place at work. People were complaining I hadn't started their ride. I forgot to do stuff I needed to remember for safety. Then my Dad came over and shouted at me. I was just in turmoil, and I knew it had to stop. Not because I didn't want to start something with you. Jesus Luke, you've made me feel wanted like no one has in a long time. I liked you from the first... well, the second time as well. I knew this was big because... as I said, rarely has someone made me feel that butterfly feeling you get like you did. And then there is the fate side of things? Us meeting again after almost never meeting again. Yeah, sure, it was all fantastic, but I knew we could never be free. At least not from my side of things. And so I thought, well, why would I put you through that? Why would I put myself through that? But Luke, how could I put US through that, if there was to be an eventual us?

I now had tears running down my cheeks as I sat there, seeing how hard this was for him. The little Bear was in pain, and there was fuck all I could do about it. Why? Because I'd caused it. He saw my tears and then broke down himself. I got up, rushed over to him, and threw my arms around his back, pulling him in tight. I felt his arms come around me, and the two of us stood there comforting each other.

I leaned back to look at him, our cheeks soaked from tears. "I'm gonna be an adult for once in my life. I'm going to do the right thing by you... by us. I'm going to stay away. And... and I hope... I hope..." I began sobbing badly, trying to get the words out. "And... I hope you'll forgive me for being stupid and coming to the fair tonight. I now know how hard this is for you. So I will make it right and not see you anymore, Bear." I hugged him as tightly as I could, just for one last time. I took in his scent again, trying to bottle it in my nose. Then, I let go and stepped back, wiping my face.

"No, you're not?" He said after a brief moment of silence.

"Huh?" I said, confused.

"You're not walking away because I don't want you to."

"But you said... I mean, I don't understand. You said in your message..."

"I see the effort you put in tonight. Not the greatest way to do it, but still. And then bravely, you laid out your feelings to me here. To be honest, Luke, I would have buckled even if I'd only seen a glimpse of your face after I sent that message." Leander wiped his face and began to laugh through intermittent sobbing. "Come here, you crazy boy, I am so into you too. Only now I know it."

Copyright © 2022 James Matthews; All Rights Reserved.
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Trying a different style and a couple of new things in this book and my only benchmark on how that is going is you, my loyal readers. So I have a small favour. Please do click a like if you're enjoying the story and please do recommend the book. If you have a thought or comment I'd be made up to hear what you think. All feedback is relished and of course I do love hearing your ideas, opinions and banter. Many thanks, folks! Now, let go forth on to the next chapter :) 

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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So the effort of going after what Luke wanted seems to be going in his favor.  The title was making me suspicious of someone getting things mixed up as to what they actually are, glad they got that sorted.

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I just used the following in a previous post on another story..."What happens when you assume?'

I Say What I Mean, but I Don't Say it Meanly: Assumption advice: Think ...

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