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By TwoFlower

Chapter 5: Questions

I feel crap. Emotionally, physically; everything. After getting, lets face it, the shit kicked out of me, I have been, as one person I know once said, sad in my secret places. It's actually not the fact that I now have to take 2 weeks off school to heal my broken bones etc (you don't need to hear me whine). It's not that some group of thugs called me names and beat me up. It's that I feel so hopelessly, shamefully alone. Being immobile gives one a lot of time to think, and reflection on my life reveals very little meaning. But then again, the kind of self-pitying looking for faults I was engaged in would probably end up in the same way for most people. And then there was the phone call.

I had actually got beyond 'dear sweet' Trenton and his fondling antics. Stopped thinking about him in fact. Gone back to the day-to-day trudge of life, with my superficial friends. I'm actually most impressed that he had the balls to phone. It might actually mean that he really does like me – but am I really ready for something like this? Is it even what I want? I've never thought much about my sexuality as it is, but I honestly never considered the possibility that I might . . . well bat for the other team. Not that I have had any particular interest in girls so far either though. This is what makes it so confusing. If I could say "sorry, I'm not like that" life would be simple. Heck we might even end up as friends.

I can hear music playing in my dad's study, and it wouldn't take a great musicologist to guess that it is Wagner. It's rather mellow though. Sort of majestic, but without being overbearing. Which is odd, since my dad told me that the opera steriotype fat lady with the Viking helmet comes from the Wagner style opera. I close my eyes, because it is rather calm. A chorus of men.

Well, the conversation didn't go to far with Trenton. I wasn't really in the mood to chat, and he didn't really know what to say. But some boiling feeling around my midriff said that I shouldn't just end it there. So I went out on a limb and asked him over. Never mind that I don't even know whether he lives in the same state or not. Never mind that I am still a little scared of him. There was a long silence on the other end of the line, and he said, trying desperately to hide his enthusiasm, that it would have to wait till the end of the week, but could he come over on Saturday afternoon. I was a real little * insert bad word here * and passed it on to my mom to sort out. Perhaps it is sortof like a test for me. If he could pass the mom test, then maybe, just maybe, he could be a potential friend. Well, Saturday is tomorrow, and on some level I am looking forward to it. Ah, I'm only trying to keep up pretences for myself anyway – I can't wait.  The fact that someone really wants to see me is helping bring me out of my self-inflicted mental slum. I'm not altogether sure what we will do together since I am still stuck to bed till the end of the week. Doctor's bloody orders. The parents seem to place some sort of magical power in what the doctor says, so I am allowed at specifically designated times to wash and make use of the little boys room. On the bright side I guess, I'm doing a lot of reading that I had put aside for "when I have time". You know, that list of books that just keeps getting longer and you never seem to manage to get round to actually reading. Well, my dad has been trying to get me to read books by a man called Terry Pratchett. Both the name and the pictures on the cover are a bit off-putting. But hey, since I've got nothing to lose, I've decided to give it a try. A book with an intriguing title, The Colour of Magic is apparently the first in his very ver y long series, so it's my starting point as well. Now that I'm about half way, it's really funny. My favorite character is Rincewind. I am Pratchett's latest fan. Something to give meaning to my life. Yeah, I know, enough with the whole feel sorry for me thing.


"Mom! Where are you? It's like half past 11 already. He'll be here any minute." You know when you are waiting for someone you kinda really want to see? How everything needs to be perfect? Well, if you don't, you won't get where I am at the moment.

"My dear, sweet, polite little son, it's half past 7. He's not getting here till 1 thirty. So stop bellowing. I don't want the neighbors to complain. Again." She winks at me.

"That's not fair. Last time dad's friend was playing a practical joke. You know I'm terrified of Barney. He eats children." But still, I grin.

"Yes well, stuffed purple child-eating dinosaurs aside, get your lazy butt out of bed and get washed. Then you can make your bed and come down to get something to eat."

"Oh come on. You'll just send me up here to get back in after breakfast. I've got my groove specially hollowed out. I'll have to spend hours getting it back if I mess up the sheets."

"Spoken with the logic of only a true teenager. A few chores will do you good. Out, out!" And she rudely removes my blankets. I might have been in my birthday suit. But luckily, I am in my cozy new pj's so nothing is revealed. I head off to the bathroom, muttering and grumbling all the way. I have rather been looking forward to a warm bath. See, these days, I have to get permission to get out of bed. It's part of the 'healing process'. All I can see it being is a power trip for my parents, but I suppose they would just laugh if I said that.

I must confess that there is sortof a dull ache over my whole body. Baths help, and I'm sure that staying bed and being out of trouble is helping the healing process. I also can't wait to get out of the house. It was nice for the first little while, being all by myself and being able to rest as long as I liked. But now I was to go out – see movies, even go back to school, but don't tell anyone that I said that.

I slip off my clothes, and test the water. Just right. Getting into a bath of good temperature is one of the finer things in life. To truly appreciate it, one needs to savor it. Take it slowly. The water flows over each limb as you climb in, and while stiffness doesn't magically disappear, it is lessened, and there is temporary relief from, well, almost everything. I could go to sleep in a good bath. Almost have sometimes. It's rather like how I would imagine floating on a cloud would be like. Water can't technically be silky, but there is a warm, somewhat fuzzy feeling all over. In a good way that is.

With any luck, I will be allowed out this afternoon. It's almost the end of the week, so if I can devise a cunning scheme to persuade the 'rents, I'm set. Funnily enough, I think they want me out of the house. I've been rather sulky lately, and with true parent finesse, they want to deal with it by sending me away. No, enough now. I must adopt the attitude of monsignor Twoflower, Rincewind's ever bright and positive companion. The one who seems to think that there is good in everyone, and if someone for some reason wants to hurt him, he considers it a grave misunderstanding. Plus I think it would be really cool to have luggage that followed you around one lots of little legs, and had huge teeth. It can be very difficult to attack someone whose angry luggage with big teeth follows them everywhere. So, in accordance with my new way of thinking, I will endeavour to convince the 'rents of the pro's of letting me spend some wondrous time in the fresh smog that is Washington. Can't have it all at once, OK.

Having bathed, my whole body doing a sort of physical smile at being clean and fresh, I head downstairs for breakfast. In some ways it is kind of fun being the victim. I get cool food, and pampered a lot. But I fear that the threat of chores will not be forgotten.

"Morning there Kraken. How was your thousand year slumber in the depths of the ocean?"

"Morning to you too dad. I slept well, but it's nice to be above water for a little. Tee hee hee. Can I go out this afternoon with Trent? Like movies or something?" The moment of truth. There is that fatal non-verbal exchange between my parents. I think I might actually be able to read the invisible messages flying between eyes: 'Last time he went to movies he got the living **** kicked out of him.' (My mom don't like to swear) 'He has to go out at some stage. He's very almost better. You don't want him to be scared of the movies for ever.' Thanks dad. 'I don't know.' What gets said I can almost predict with psychic precision.

"We'll have to talk about it Mark."

Elaborate sigh. "OK mom."

"But if you feel the calling for physical activity, there are lots and lots of chores I'm sure you are dying to help with." Keep Twoflower attitude – no sarcasm. That's my goal. It's going to be a struggle, I can tell you that.

"If I make my bed and wash the dishes, will that help my chances of being able to go out this afternoon?" No sense in not using my bargaining skills.

"Quite possibly."

"I require a yes or no, so that I know there will not be a breach of contract." I saw that on some TV program. It just sounds so cool.

"You better go and get those things done, or there will be some pretty unpleasant contracts that you will be signing in the near future." Damn. Corporate giants always dominating the poor man in the street. Hostile takeovers and things like that. There's nothing for it but to break my back making the bed, and scald my hands washing endless dishes. Twoflower, Twoflower.

Funnily enough, and against everything I had expected, I am allowed to go out. Dad to the rescue. Yay! This day will be good after all. No point in sabotaging my chances now. I make my bed neatly, and diligently do the washing up. I sing. Singing is good. It's  brain medicine, if you know how to use it. Rather than singing a song, I sing the tune to the Wagner playing in the background. I've discovered the name of that chorus that was playing yesterday. It's the Pilgrim's Chorus from Tannhäuser. Dad's promised to take me to a production happening next month. I've never been one much in favor of classical music. But this got my attention. How bad could an hour or so listening to this kind of music actually be anyway? I glance at my wristwatch. Holy cow, it's almost 1. He'll be here any minute, and I haven't got out of my cozy pj's. I run upstairs and almost trip over Sally who's sleeping on the landing. I suppose she likes it there because of the sun, but it's a nuisance trying to get round here. I give her an absent-minded pat, and hurry on to my room. As I get there I here the doorbell ring. Crap!

Suddenly my 'I don't care what people think of how I look' seems like rubbish. I have to look good. Black is good right? Or were they saying on TV that pink is the new black? Well I'm sure as hell not wearing pink, so I grab a black T-shirt with the Doom 3 logo on the front right breast. Plain black pants will have to do. I can hear conversation downstairs. Please oh please don't let my silly silly in-laws (1) make a fool of me, or worse (2) send him up here. I glance at myself in the mirror. Yikes. It still looks like I just got out of bed with hair all over the show and eyes that look like they need washing.  Footsteps on the staircase – crapcrapcrap. Grab brush and run it through my hair a few times, and rub eyes energetically. Great, now it looks like I've been crying. There's a knock on the door. I almost faint from the shock.

Dad pokes his head through the door. "Dad – you scared the hell outa me! Make some dad-like noise next time so that I know it's you."

"What exactly would you have me do? Sing the assorted arias of Siegfried? Or perhaps Tannhäuser?" Wink. I love you dad. "Your friend's here. Come down when you're ready." Off he goes. I skoot off to the bathroom. Wash my face with a cloth, put my hair in slightly better order. Now's the moment of truth. But now it'll feel odd walking in with him sitting awkwardly with my parents. This wasn't quit the meeting I had pictured. Ah well, one cannot unbreak a glass. I skulk down the stairs. Today is a skulking day. But it's hard to skulk with the Ride of the Valkeries playing in the background.

I can hear a conversation. It sounds very formal, but that voice. It radiates gentleness, and an inner calm. It's a voice that sings by definition. It's a voice that I could . . . but I must go and say hello now. Mustn't keep him waiting any longer. I march, head held high, into the living room.

"Hey Trenton." Yeah, it is a bit of a cold greeting. But that's me. I actually hardly know the guy.

"Hi Mark." Wow. He looks so nervous. But otherwise the same as I remember him. Confession time: in the schmaltzy light that surrounds happy memories in sappy movies. I don't know why.

"What were you guys talking about? The weather?" There are some polite sounds of amusement. My parents can be like that. You have to get to know them really well before they lighten up. My mom decides to play the good host.

"Have you had lunch yet? Mark hasn't because, living a life of leisure, he's just got out of bed."

"That's not true – I've been up for at least 20 minutes." I say in mock indignation. Now everyone shows the first signs of relaxing in each other's company. And there is a musical giggle from Tren. Good gosh, why am I thinking in these terms? I may not have been with any, but I like women, right?

"It's ok thanks. I ate before I came. I don't live far from you guys. My mom also thinks it's rude to pitch up at someone's house just to eat there – heh."

"Son, mom and I think it would be a good idea if you were to, well, go out this afternoon. We've told Trenton what happened to you, and he's promised to look after you." Not even a trace of sarcasm. I search everyone's faces to find it, because it must be there, but it isn't. It's genuine. I feel tears building up behind my eyes. Happy tears. I try to smile. It doesn't work so well, so I get up and give my wonderful dad a hug. "Come, let's get going so you can make the afternoon show." Since I don't have many friends, I think my parents are overjoyed to see that I have one. One who they think is nice. Perhaps their overdoing it a bit. Tren looks at me nervously. Ah yes, we still have some unresolved issues. But I want to keep things happy.

"You might say that I've been out of 'it' for the past few weeks." To which my father adds his wisecrack for the day.

" 'It' being a normal pain-free life that is." Hardiharhar dad. We all grin all the same, and pile into his silver Merc. Did I mention that my parents are reasonably well off?

"Well, Tren, what movies are worth seeing? I kinda liked the idea of seeing Mr and Mrs Smith. What do you think?"

"You read my mind. We better hurry though. I checked through movie times this morning, and it starts in 10 minutes. Put foot, Mark's dad."

"Aye aye, sir." Understand that my dad can drive like a maniac if he wants, his attitude being red traffic lights are for those in the slow lane of life. Presumably then, he claims to live in the fast lane. I somehow don't think Tren expected quite such a large foot, so to speak. I have to laugh at his horrified expression.

"Got your money's worth there, Tren." If I was in the back seat with him, I would put my arm around him now. Where are these feelings coming from?

We zoom up to the theatre, and pull up right behind a cop motorcycle. Good luck dad. Sadly, there is a quite a long queue, but when we get to buy tickets, Tren pays for both. This is feeling disturbingly like a date. My familiar feelings of panic rise up, but I manage to tame them. He may just be trying to be a nice guy. Maybe.

I really enjoy the movie. It's what every teen wants: lots of somewhat mindless action for the boys, and an almost soppy love story for the girls. I really liked all the cool big guns. I want a rocket launcher like that. Although hopefully I won't shoot it at whomever I choose to marry. We head out for an early evening pizza afterwards. Talk time. Why does it feel like this whole thing was a setup? We end up at a table in a corner away from the crowd, order and sit in awkward silence for a minute or so. He launches right in.

Tren plunges right in: "About what happened at the hotel. I'm so, so, sorry. I never meant to hurt you. I really never did. It was just a sort of instinct thing." I'm at a loss for words. I still don't grasp what it means, both for our relationship and about him. "Do you think you can look past it? Maybe we can still be friends? I just . . . like you so much. You're such a nice guy. And my brother also likes you a lot. My other friends don't want to have anything to do with him because he is younger than them. But you are nice to him Please?"

"Tren. I, I just." I pause, and try again. "I can't." Third time lucky. "My mind has difficulty processing what happened. I want to be your friend. I just have to give some meaning to what happened." He stares into my eyes for ages. Normally when people do that, I look away quite soon, but tonight, I don't want him to stop.

He says simply, "I think I'm gay Mark." It's a whisper. A tattered shred of hope attached by a tiny thread. Almost ready to fly away on winds of despair. I can't pick any change in his facial features, but his eyes are telling me that he has never told anyone before, and if I shun him now, the consequences might just be, disastrous. I must think about my response carefully.

"I want to tell you a story. Something that happened to me. Or rather someone. It might help explain things." I stop as I see the oafishly grinning jock of a waiter heading our way with the food.

"You guys see the ballgame? Terrible. My team got thrashed." He sags. We're not into talking about ballgames. The cogs in his chimp brain turn. Slowly. "I'll leave you guys to your dinner then." Yeah, buddy. Now's not the time. You might get a big tip for that. I watch me wonder off to a nearby table before I carry on.

"When I was in nursery school, there was this kid. Freddy Berkowits. He was easily the fattest and dumbest person I ever new. He was also the worst bully. I soon learned to deal with being beaten." Tren looks shocked. I hold up my hand: "Let me finish please. I have a feeling this will be easier for me if I get it our all in one go. As I was saying, I got used to him pushing me around on the playground. Most of the kids did. Oddly enough, it brought most of us little kids together. A common enemy. Looking back, I had some pretty good friends then.

"At that stage, my dad was Freddy's dad's boss. So for some evil reason, he would spend the afternoons at my house until his dad could pick him up. My mom would pick us up, and in accordance with her parenting style 'leave us boys to our own devices'. This meant more of a beating in general. I could deal with that. It was when one day Freddy decided he wanted to play games inside. This honestly scared the living shit out of me. I knew what was coming when we played outside. What did he have in store for me on the sacred ground of my room?

"I was dragged off to my room and," I stop. Painful memories. I look down at my slowly cooling pizza. I'm not hungry any more. My turn for pleading whispering, "He molested me. I tried to fight him at first, but he just had too much weight for me to try to stop him. It never went very far. In fact, clothes were never removed. But boy oh boy, did he know how to cause pain in sensitive areas."

I continue talking to the pizza. Hardly even a whisper now. I don't even care if he can hear what I say, "One time he said 'you exist only for me, bitch. You do what I say, when I say, or I'm gonna fucking kill you, y'hear?' I think that's why I freaked out." I look at him. There are tears in his  eyes. On impulse, I say, "I'm scared. Tren." He reaches out under the table, and takes my hand. I force the impulse to flinch away. Neither pizza has been touched.

"Whadahyah say we get out of here and take a walk. Neither of us are hungry any more." If I try to say anything, I will burst into tears. I don't want people to look at us. This is our moment. Crying is for later. Tren, sweet Tren, waves over the chump. I hitch up the sides of my lips.

"Can we have the bill, please." Thank you Tren. I just can't speak right now.

"This is new. You guys come here, and order pizza not to eat it?"

"Look, just get the bill ok? Or are you not going to charge us?"

"Okok, I just work here. Keep your pants on." He looks so surprised when both of us burst out laughing. It's crazy, on the edge laughter, but at least it's laughter. He's still holding my hand. Or rather, I'm clinging to him. He's my lifeline. Please oh please don't let go.

We pay, and head out on no direction in particular. We're not holding hands any more, which upsets me. But this is out in public. For now, we need to look like two good friends.

"I had no idea. Ok, that's silly and cliché. Of course I had no idea. I won't hurt you Mark. It would hurt me too much, if nothing else. I get upset just thinking that you might be hurt. When you are, I get hurt twice." I stop walking. He looks rather panicky, and stops as well. We are outside the window of and Italian restaurant. The wood fire glows at the back. I walk up to him, put my arms around him, and cry unashamedly.

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