I had spent the entire week in pile of disjointed nerves, anxiously anticipating the weekend. And here it was, already Friday, the day Hux insisted I get off the bus at his stop to call Jim over and commence his plan. I was completely soft with fear, my heart racing. What does he want me to do? I kept thinking. He was right beside me for the entire ride, watching me intently.
“It’ll be alright,” he said. I didn’t believe him.
My legs almost gave out as I scooted across the seat to stand up and walk down the aisle. This was wrong and I knew it. Whatever he had in mind as the solution, I just couldn’t see it ending well. He threw an arm around me as we made our way up his driveway. I cringed when I heard the bus pulling away. No turning back now. I had made sure to tell my mom I was getting off at Mariah’s because she didn’t particularly like Hux or any of his friends. So not only had I lied, but I was now hanging out with the biggest misfit of the entire school. Not like she probably cared at that point, since she was so enamored with Jim. Why was I doing this again?
He led me into their living room and I sat down on the couch as he opened the liquor cabinet. His aunt wasn’t home.
“Want a drink?” he offered.
“Right, of course you are,” he chuckled, handing me a shot of Jack Daniels. I reluctantly downed it, gagging for a couple seconds.
“You’ll learn to love it after we’re done. It’s not like that piss Jimbo drinks.” He took a swig from the bottle and set it down. “So here’s what’s gonna happen. You’re gonna call him to say you’re at a friend’s house. Thing is, he probably remembers my address. There’s an abandoned house a couple blocks down from here on the verge of foreclosure. It’s still got all the furniture and shit. We’ll take the notice down, I’ll bring some alcohol, set it up like I live there. He rings the doorbell. That’s where you come in.”
My heart skipped a beat. “Wha…what do I do?”
“Take off your shirt and answer the door. Jimbo can’t resist the sight of a little eye candy,” he grinned, giving me a wink.
“I’ll be right there with you, he’ll probably think it’s a threesome. Plus it’s hot as balls in that place, the electricity’s been out a couple months. That’s about it for you. I’ll do all the talking, you can hide up on the stairs out of sight if you want. This is just the setup.”
“Won’t he run away when he sees it’s you?”
“Nah…I know this cocksucker. He’s got a thing for age progression, likes to see how all your parts and pieces are growing. Sick fuck,” he spat, lighting up a cigarette.
“I’m scared,” I squirmed, feeling nauseous.
“Please.” I figured it was best not to fight it. Anything to get me through what we were about to do. “So…what exactly did he do to you?”
“I didn’t let him get that far. I was about twelve or so. Was taking a nap upstairs, he wandered in at some point. I’m a light sleeper, which he wasn’t betting on. Tried shoving a hand down my pants when I was pretending to be asleep. Lucky I always keep a knife in my pillowcase. I slashed the right side of his neck and chased him out. Hasn’t been back around here since. We reported his ass, but the cops never found him. Sorry he got to you.”
“The house is maybe a twenty minute walk. Let’s get going,” he said, finishing up another shot and picking up his backpack to load up some bottles. I got up, feeling a bit dizzy as he led me out.
The sky was cloudy that day, threatening rain. A fine drizzle had started about halfway through the trek. I observed Hux’s gait as we strolled along, seeming to any outside observer like two good friends on our way to parts unknown. Maybe talking about girls or engaging in some random conversation about the school day. Listless, two souls wandering toward a fate unknown after senior year. But Hux seemed so self-assured, even if he wasn’t. So suave. Always comfortable in situations that put others in a state of unease. And for that, I often envied him. In a strange sort of way, you had to admire the guy. He had courage. Quiet strength. Cojones. The kind of steel-coated balls that only come from years of patience and living through the worst. Or maybe he was just insane and nobody knew any better. It was hard to tell the difference.
I tried to keep my mind open, repeating the same phrase and reverting to that sense of hopeless abandon I had felt when I heard the bus leaving. No turning back now. Just go with it. Stay in the moment.
We stepped up onto the porch, which was littered with trash everywhere. Red Solo cups, broken bottles of alcohol, exploded lighters, debris from firecrackers and old paper streamers. Either this had been Hux’s hangout for a while, or other people had hosted parties. I assumed the former when he dug a key out of his pocket and tore the abandoned notice off the sliding glass door.
“You ready for this?” he asked.
“Not really, but I’m too buzzed to care.”
“Atta boy,” he smiled, opening the door.
The house smelled a bit musty. Plastic and sheets covered most of the furniture, and there were patches of dust and liquid stains on the coffee and end tables. The lampshades were a bit tattered, and there was some broken glass from light bulbs littered on the floor and around the couches. Hux got to work tearing off the sheets and rolling them into balls, tossing them in a nearby closet. I found a broom and dustpan and went around sweeping up the glass and trash, making sure to sweep over the front porch. He wiped down the tables and cleaned the windows. We took about a half-hour making everything look as presentable as possible. After that, we took a few more minutes to sit down and talk through the plan again.
I did a quick shot and smoked a cigarette to gather up the necessary courage and finally took out my phone. Hux nodded, and I scrolled down to Jim’s number. No turning back now.
“Here goes nothing.” I hit the call button.
“Hey Tim,” he answered in a cheerful tone. I wanted to vomit.
“Hi,” I said, hoping my voice wasn’t too shaky. The alcohol helped at least. “Listen, I’m over at a friend’s house studying. Do you think you could pick me up around 4:30? His mom’s out at work and I need a ride home.”
“Sure,” he said. “What’s the address?”
“242 Valley Road.”
“Got it. Be there soon.”
“Thanks.” I hung up and tossed my phone on the coffee table. “He’s coming.”
“Good.” Hux pulled off his shirt, and I turned my head away. I didn’t really want to look at him. Jim made me feel shameful enough about being gay. He let out a chuckle. “It’s okay to look,” he said, stepping over to me. “Come on, sexy boy.”
“Get away from me!” I insisted, scooting away. But I looked anyway after catching my first glimpse, and found myself shocked by his body. “Whoa,” I breathed.
I’d never seen Hux without a shirt before, and the true extent of his burn scars fascinated me. Almost the whole right side of him from the neck and shoulder down across his chest and over the top half of his abdomen was covered in a stretched, sometimes scaly texture. Some areas were faded red while others were light pink. He leaned over me so I could get a better look.
“Mind if I touch?” I asked.
“Go ahead.” I traced a hand over the burnt sections of dead skin, truly intrigued by the interesting texture, wondering what the sensations of my touch must be like for him. “What’s it feel like?”
“Hot,” he said. I tore my hand away, but he grabbed it back, running my little fingers slowly along his chest. “Not like what you’re thinking,” he assured me. “I mean it feels…hot. Like how you’d feel after burning yourself. Kinda that feeling of fire, but also more sensitive underneath. It tickles almost, but in a really distant way. It’s a little hard to explain.”
“And your face is like that too?” I traced a finger over the top of his eye and lightly down his cheek.
“Yeah, there too,” he said. I went over his chest again, down to his belly button, softly brushing the hairs of his happy trail. “All right, that’s enough,” he smirked.
“Aw shit!” I felt myself getting hard. “I’m really sorry, I-”
“Forget it,” he laughed.
“No, I can’t let this keep happening!”
“You’re a guy, you’re growing up, chill out!”
“You don’t understand,” I whimpered. “It hurts! Every time, I just think of Jim, and-”
“So don’t think about him.”
“It’s not that simple!”
“Yes it is! How do you think I got over my fear of fire? It sure as shit wasn’t through whining about it and hiding in the dark. You’ve gotta face this!”
“Easy for you to say, he didn’t rape you!”
“You don’t even have to look at him when he gets here, okay? God, you need to drink more.”
“You’re a prick.”
“Yeah, get in line with everyone else who thinks so. Don’t pussy out on me.”
“So what’s the purpose of this anyhow? You said it’s just the setup. A setup for what?”
“Haven’t gotten that far yet.”
“Great,” I sighed pouring myself another shot.
“Jesus, you and my aunt are so similar. She drinks herself stupid every day.”
“You told me to have another.”
“Would you jump off a bridge if I told you to? Just proves my point. You let people shit on you once, they’ll do it for the rest of your life. Hey, you listening?!” He grabbed the shot glass out of my hand and downed it.
“What the hell!”
“You’re gonna make me do all the talking, I need it more than you.”
“I don’t understand you at all.”
“Take off your shirt, we got ten minutes.”
I rolled my eyes and pulled it off. Not like I wanted to, but the house was pretty hot anyways. Then my heart sunk as I heard the sound of gravel crackling outside and the engine of an approaching car.
“He’s here,” Hux said.
“Oh god, I can’t!”
“Yes you can, just answer the door and I’ll take care of the rest! Hide up the stairs out of sight when he steps in. I’ll be right here, okay?”
I nodded, and moments later, the doorbell rang. My stomach turned and I froze. Ding-dong. My hands were shaking. Just do it, you pussy. Hux is here. He won’t let this asshole hurt you. I took a deep breath and opened the door. Jim was standing there, looking a bit shocked.
“Hey,” he exhaled. He looked me up and down, though tried not to make it obvious. The blink of his eyes told me a lot. “You ready to go?”
“In a minute. You can come in, I just need to get my stuff.”
“Okay.” He stepped in somewhat reluctantly, almost as nervous as I was, and I saw his mouth drop open in surprise at the sight of Hux as I headed up the stairs and sat down near the wall where he couldn’t see me.
“Hey there, Jimbo,” Hux said.
“Mark! Uh…wow, I…wasn’t expecting to see you here.”
“I know. Take a seat,” he said all nonchalant-like.
“Look, I can’t really stay too long, so-”
“Nah, sit down a minute. You’re an old friend, let me get you a drink.” I heard the clinking of glass as he poured him one. “So how’s it goin’?”
“All right, not too bad. Can’t complain.” I cautiously peered around the corner to see him scratching at the scar on his neck. The one Hux gave him.
“So you’re back in town, huh?”
“Yeah, I…got a job as manager of the local grocery store. Doesn’t pay too much, but it’s decent. How’s your aunt doing?”
“Ah, she’s fine, she’s good. Manager job sounds about right for you. You get some good help nowadays, what with the high school so close? I know the kids need money around here, they’re pretty eager to help out.”
“Thought so,” Hux chuckled. “Just out of curiosity,” he said, lighting up a cigarette, “how’d that thick neck of yours heal up?”
“I should really be going.”
“Nah, you got robbed at knifepoint, right? If I recall, you told my aunt you didn’t feel safe around here anymore.”
“Oh, yeah, that was…it was pretty bad. Tim, you almost ready?” he called. I didn’t answer.
“Don’t worry about him, we actually got a couple things that take a little while to pack up. I’m sorry man, I was just kinda wondering,” Hux sighed, chomping on some ice and running a couple pieces over his bare chest. “Damn, it’s hot in here. So Jimmy…what made you come back to Kentsburg? I mean if it wasn’t safe and all.”
“I, uh…” He was visibly sweating now, running a hand over his forehead in between staring at Hux’s body. “I met a girl, Tim’s mother. Wonderful woman.” He seemed to force those last words out in an attempt to sound sincere. “We’re actually getting married next month.”
“No way!” Hux exclaimed. “Well congratulations!”
“Thanks. I’m actually securing some paperwork so I can formally adopt Tim.” I shuddered. What?!
“That’s cool, I always thought you were pretty fit for child-rearing,” he smirked.
“Well look, I should really be going…”
Hux continued his blatant charade, spilling a few drops of his drink down his half-naked body. That’s when I started thinking of how dangerous this stupid act was, because I had called Jim over to pick me up. My mom wouldn’t be off work until at least 8pm, which gave him at least three hours to beat the living shit out of me and rape me until I couldn’t take any more. Fortunately, Hux was the kind of guy who had thought ahead about this. But I still feared going home at any point. Jim would have plenty more chances to take this out on me.
“If you have to, that’s cool,” Hux said. “But I just remembered we actually got quite a bit more studying to do. Big test on Monday.”
“Yeah,” I said, heading downstairs. “Different subject, we were focusing so much on history I forgot about the biology project we gotta present. I’m really sorry…”
“Right,” Jim said, eyeing me suspiciously.
“My aunt can run him home tomorrow, it’s no biggie,” Hux said.
“Okay…I guess that’s fine.”
Hux threw an arm over my shoulder and leaned close to me. I could tell this was making Jim wildly uncomfortable, so I acted as naturally as I could, laying my head on his chest and wrapping my arms around his side. We both grinned at Jim, who got up and backed away for the door.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Tim?”
“Okay. You two have fun now.”
“We’ll have loads of fun,” Hux smiled, caressing my back.
Jim ran out the door, adjusting his collar and letting out a faint “see ya” as he bolted for the car and sped away. Hux laughed and let go of me, and I shoved him backwards.
“Could you be any more of a fucking idiot! You know I can’t go home, right? He’ll beat the shit out of me!”
“Oh, you’re definitely not going home to him now. We got this fucker good. I just hope you’re ready for what needs to happen tomorrow.”
“What happens tomorrow?”
Hux didn’t answer. He just took another sip of his drink and smiled.