Genre: high school; drama; romance; m/m
- - -
The house could be cleaner, Finlay thinks as he nudges a pizza box under the couch with his foot. Remains of takeout cartons, empty plastic soda bottles, and magazines litter the living room table as if he were hoarding them.
I swear I was gonna throw these out tomorrow
" He hastily gathers an armful of magazines and cartons and hurries off to the garbage can in the kitchen.
After a brief moment of scurrying around the room and uttering a few times, "Er, just a sec," the place seems a lot airier. Finlay never stopped cursing himself the whole time.
He turns back to the boy and smiles brightly at him, as if to cover up the ungainly state of his home, and says, "We have the place to ourselves."
Charlie sweeps a sharp gaze over the room, giving everything a thorough once over, before settling his eyes on Finlay.
His locked gaze makes Finlay squirm a little. "You
sure you can stay here for a bit?" he says.
"I don't have any other priorities," Charlie says, his face completely rigid. "I'm a big boy now. I think I can manage staying over at a friend's place."
Finlay feels he should be offended by the tone, but he is too preoccupied by the boy's choice of words. So Charlie did think of him as a friend unless he meant it as a vague term for an acquaintance
Finlay's shoulders slump a little.
Charlie pauses. His features soften when he looks at Finlay again. "Sorry
" he says and pinches the bridge of his nose. "It's just
things have been a little
at home. You have a very nice place."
"Nah, forget about it," Finlay says. He wants to know more, but pushing the issue will also push the boy away. "Just chill. No one but me an' you here." He grabs him by the hand and pulls him over to the white leather couch. "Come on."
Charlie follows him onto the couch, his steps dragging with unease across the varnished floor. Finlay brushes aside a strand of hair behind the boy's ear and leans forward. Before their lips can meet, Charlie shrinks back and stares intently at the floor.
"What's wrong?" Finlay says. His mind back tracks as he tries to find something he did that could have put the boy off.
Charlie's jaw clenches. "Sorry, it's just
Well, I can't help but feel that I've made you
" His words are shoved out of his mouth with great difficulty.
"Gay?" Finlay completes his sentence, making Charlie cringe. He slumps back into the couch and sighs. "Well, I don't know. I never really thought about it, you know."
"You don't think much about anything, do you?" Charlie says out the corner of his mouth.
"Hey, what's 'at s'posed to mean?"
Charlie huffs softly. "That's not what I
I wish I could be a bit like you sometimes."
Finlay bites the inside of his lower lip and pink colours his cheeks. He knows Charlie is a good kid who only keeps his head down and tries to stay out of the way, but he can also see him struggling hard to belong somewhere and mean something, to someone else or to himself. Granted, he never thought of himself as gay before, and only went where his emotions carried him without thinking of the aftermath. He is still young, after all, and growing up sounds tedious to his volatile mood. Actually, he thinks that if he were more like Charlie, he would be a better person.
He glances at the boy and notes a deep unease knotting his fingers, though his face is always the same. He wants him. Those bright brown eyes
He's seen them so many times, he can see them when they are not there. Sharp and iced, semi-obscured by long eyelashes and heavy lids, they stare at him with a silent-running mania, and never blink. It makes his skin itch terribly, and he yearns for nothing more than to scratch at it.
He leans forward and chases the pale pink lips. Though he can feel Charlie under him, the boy is reluctant and slow in his response. From this reaction, he feels a growing impatience so familiar it reminds him of the occasions where he is stuck in a never ending line and time is running out. A sense of righteousness floods his thoughts for a second and he lurches forward and grabs the back of the boy's head. Charlie hisses and tries to pull back, but Finlay is now pinning him with his body and demanding attention.
"The hell?" Charlie bites out. "Wait, just wait a second
Finlay!" The boy manages to separate themselves, both panting hard.
"What?" Finlay says, flushed and irritated.
Charlie nervously scratches the back of his head. "I don't know
It just feels weird now. You say you don't really think about things
" The boy looks at the ground. "Well, that only means this is a phase for you. Not that I would have minded much
but it's different now."
"Different how?" Finlay asks.
Charlie makes an exasperated sound. "I don't know. Just different. Like" he pauses suddenly and frowns to himself. "I just don't think I can handle this right now."
"What are you talking about?"
Finlay does not understand. Why is Charlie shying away from him now? He doesn't want him to leave as well, not when they haven't even finished their initial promise. He just wants to touch him more and feel those eyes undressing and claiming him.
The front door opens and in walks Colin, a bagel in his mouth and a plastic bag in hand. His steps stop at the entrance to the living room, in front of them. The sight of his little brother's arms around another boy's waist, nuzzling his neck, must really have given him pause.
Finlay slowly drags his eyes toward his brother, too afraid to even move his arms. Colin takes a bite out of the bagel and chews thoughtfully on the morsel.
"Huh." Colin says. "Maybe a little context might help avoid some serious misunderstanding here."
Finlay sits up and straightens himself while Charlie sits absolutely still, completely withdrawn and probably mortified by the situation.
What would you say if I told you I was gay?"
"You're not gay," Charlie pipes in anxiously, talking to the floor.
Finlay snaps his head round. "Why are you still saying that? You think I don't get hard thinking of you?"
"That's just hormones, okay?" Charlie snaps back, finally looking at him, eyes blazing.
"Hormones?" Finlay repeats, wide-eyed. "You think I wouldn't be chasing some pretty girl instead?"
Charlie's jaw clenches and he looks away. Finlay realises his words didn't come out exactly as he had meant them. A dark veil crosses the boy's eyes as he lowers his head.
"I'm sorry, Finlay. I don't know what you're looking for, but I'm sure you can do better than me."
Charlie gets up from the couch, mutters a stiff goodbye to Finlay's brother, and scurries out the front door.
Finlay slaps a hand to his forehead and lets out a frustrated groan. "That's not what I meant!"
Colin takes another bite out of his bagel. "You know," he says with a full mouth, "if there was a contest for the most awkward coming out ever, you would be crowned asshat."
"Shut up!" Finlay yells and shoves past his brother towards his room. "And clean the goddamn house!" he adds before slamming his door.
Of course he would screw up. It was only a matter of time.
- - -
Everything is broiling inside of Charlie; just thinking of Finlay makes him hot and uneasy, as if he were having the beginnings of a fever, or knotty inside his chest, as if he had caught a cold. It baffles him how the boy could think being gay is just about getting hard; Finlay is only seventeen it's normal for him to experiment and look for release. Being gay is not supposed to be that easy, is it? He groans and throws aside the book he was trying to read. A shy knock comes at the door. It's Colbie, asking him to join the rest of the family for dinner.
Right now, he really wants to avoid his family.
"You okay, son?" Charlie's father asks him over dinner the next day.
Charlie stops chewing his piece of chicken as he has to process the fact that his father had decidedly talked to him.
"What the heck happened when I was gone? Boy, you'd have to stand up twice to cast a shadow. Trouble at school?"
Charlie plays hockey with his knife in the arena of his plate, slicing and dicing boiled peas into green mush.
"You can say that," he says to his food. "Bike got broken."
The twins share a worried look over the increased sound of clinking and scraping.
His father jabs a meat-laden fork at him and chews out, "Now look 'ere you best man up and stand up to them pissant punks, y'hear me? Ain't no son o' mine's a pussy faggot."
For the longest time, Charlie has always tried to appear as more than a blip on his father's radar, but now he feels that if he was more than a blip, he would be just as soon dispatched of. Though hiding, he imagines, is not his father's idea of what a man is supposed to do. An oncoming neurosis seeps in through the cracks of his immaculate mask.
" he starts and looks straight into his father's chiselled face, worn by years of contracting and manual labour. "Maybe I am one. Would I stop being your son, then? If we go by your logic, I would imagine so."
A dangerous silence crackles in the wake of his words.
"Boy, you best watch yer mouth if you know what's good fer you," says his father. "I will not tolerate back talkin' from some scrawny brat. You will respect the rules of this house as long as you live under this roof." His words boom across the table as he revels in the authority of his own voice.
"Do tell," says Charlie. He can feel the razor wire he is treading slice through his heels, and it is strangely thrilling. "What rule have I broken? You've been gone for months, worrying Ma sick, while I juggle between school and a job, and you expect me to"
"Alright, that's enough," his father says. "If I knew it was gonna be like this, I woulda never left in the first place. You're hanging with some bad apples. That boy from the other day musta been a bad influence on you."
"Hardly an influence. I slept with him once," Charlie says into his plate, and adds bravely, "And he wasn't my first."
"Charlie!" his mother cries with a scowl, horrified that he would bring it up, especially at the dinner table.
His father is on his feet before Charlie can register a change in his position, and already has a hand curled in his shirt, lifting him up from his chair. Colbie shoots up and flings herself on her father's arm, trying hard to pry the man away from her brother.
"Stop it!" she screams, straining her arms. "Let him go!"
Cody is no longer at the table, and has instead opted for the little comfort the four walls of his own bedroom could offer.
In his father's eyes, Charlie can see nothing but a sour disappointment, ripened for seventeen years running, cloud his reflection. The hand holding him loosens and lets go, as if recoiling from a toxic substance.
The man mutters something about going out for bit. Charlie feels like chains have tied him to the words he's spoken.
His father returns in the middle of the night, sweating alcohol through his pores, and barges into Charlie's room. The boy wasn't getting much sleep so he is more or less aware of what his happening. Though he had expected a drunken rage to happen, he hadn't predicted being kicked out of the house as well. This is a new development he will have to figure out after a midnight walk about town. Surely all will be well morning come. It's a good thing he thought to grab his shoes and his cell on the way out.
After wandering around the chilled, arid streets where an odd car or two whooshed by, Charlie makes his way down by the river that passes through town. He sits on the bank and listens to the sound of water flowing and frogs croaking in the distance. It's much more peaceful out here than back at home anyway.
He thinks about his father, his mother, Finlay
Everything he did seemed to go against them. Everywhere he turned, he hit a brick wall. The moment he starts to act out, something bad happens. He's only ever thought of burying his needs and desires, burying all his problems and everyone else with them. He's imagined it countless times before, standing on top of a graveyard, his hands and knees bloodied and dirty with mud. He's killed them all before in this well-rehearsed fantasy, perhaps subconsciously wishing them all dead. When he thinks of what could happen, it terrifies him, and he is filled with a terrible sense of guilt. The fact that he couldn't even cry for them makes him feel that much emptier.
His phone rings. It's Neil.
"Yes?" Charlie obliges.
" Neil starts a little hesitant on the other end. "I haven't seen you in a while, you know."
Insect calls mingle with the breeze, dotting a pause that resonates clearly between the two.
"I was wondering," Neil continues, "If we could get some coffee sometime."
Charlie has seen Neil do this before. It's a cycle.
" Neil struggles with his words. "Are you going to Fin's party tomorrow?"
Charlie pauses before answering, "No. I don't think so."
"'Kay, cool, cool
" He stops. "Hey what's that noise?"
"I'm running a bath. I'll have to call you back, Neil," he says and hangs up.
He stares into the gushing water below, confident it could bury absolutely anything in the world.
- - -