I was lying on my bed, my red and swollen eyes staring blankly at the ceiling. The night had fallen already, but my guilt made a point of preventing me from sleeping. Every time I closed my eyes, flashes of what happened would invade my vision. The feelings would overwhelm me and tears would flow again. My tears-soaked pillow was the concrete proof that no matter how much I ran, how much I wished, everything happened. I can’t remember when I found sleep that night, but the town was slowly coming to life when it happened.

When I woke up, the sun was already high in the sky and the birds had stopped chirping long ago. I was still exhausted from the emotional drain I went through the day before. So exhausted that it was a real struggle to keep my eyes open; and leaving the comfort of my bed was a terrible ordeal. I still can’t believe what happened… What a bunch of assholes! I hope… I hope he escaped unharmed. “Unharmed”. Geez, who am I fooling? I hope he got out of this without more than a few bruises! This mere thought made me cringe. He definitely got hurt; and it’s all my fault.

But I didn’t really want to go through the whole self-blaming process again, and I figured breathing some fresh air would do me good. I slipped a pair of boxers on and hopped into some clothes – dark jeans and a hoodie that was lying around – before heading to the front door. I was halfway down the stairs when I noticed something that puzzled me. There’s… there’s light in the kitchen? Does that mean…is he back?!

I hurried my pace and hopped toward the light, a smile growing on my face with every step. It’s been so long since the last time he was home! I hope he’ll recognize me. I mean, of course he will, but I’ve grown up during the past few months. I had replaced my old haircut with a short messy one – my hairdresser said it brings out its dark shade – and my face had changed. My traits were as fine as before, and I still look as manly as a puppy; though… well, I couldn’t describe how, but I know I have changed. I look a bit more “grown-up”.

I was almost running now, missing a few steps out of excitement and bracing myself for the hug of my life. I pushed the door that was half-open and rushed inside, welcomed by the smiling figure of my… of my… of the maid?! My smile faded instantly; but I made my best to keep my composure.

“Good morning, young boy. I was about to wake you up. It’s already 3PM, and you know that your parents don’t like late risers.”

“Hi… Don’t worry, the sun took care of this. I just… I saw light in the kitchen and thought that maybe my father was home. Is he?” My eyes were pleading her for a positive answer. Please say yes! Tell me he’s in his bureau, waiting for me to wake up to give me the loving hug I’m craving for. But even in my head, it sounded wrong.

“Well…” That was it. The answer I was dreading.

“Don’t bother, I got it. He’s not here. I was a fool to even consider the idea.” The bit of hope I had left disappeared in thin air, and I found myself grief-stricken again; maybe even more than before this conversation. I headed back to the front door but I was stopped midway by a gentle grasp on my shoulder.

“Listen, Lucas. You’re a smart boy, you know that your parents love you. But they both have very demanding jobs, especially your father. If they do all of this, it’s to make sure you never need anything. Do you understand?”

“Whatever. I’d prefer to live in a cabin and get to see them on a daily basis than being wealthy and having to wait for Christmas to spend time with my dad.” I tried to escape her grip but she wouldn’t let me go.

“Don’t say such things. Your mother assured me she would try to spend time with you next week-end and your dad promised he would Skype with you during the week.”

“Great, that’s really awesome. I can’t wait. It just made my day!” I dropped in a sarcastic voice that didn’t have the desired effect. I thought she would get upset and scold me – which would give me a good reason to relieve some of my frustration on her. Instead, she settled for a smile and landed a motherly kiss on my forehead.

“Don’t be cheeky, young boy. Go. I’ll make you some breakfast, if we can still call it a breakfast at this time of the day. Don’t go too far though.” She ruffled my hair and pushed me toward the door.

Now… I know it may seem strange for a maid to act in such a way. The truth is that she’s the one who raised me, who feeds me, who cheers me up when I’m down, who takes care of me. She’s more of a mother than the one who gave birth to me. I love my mother, but she’s like a housemate who pays the rent and who I get to see occasionally more than a parental figure.

I regretted not putting on socks the moment my bare feet touched the porch. The shivers and the cold were a good way to keep my mind off the dark thoughts, but losing my toes over frostbite was not an option. I rushed to the grass and leant back against the tree, resting my head on the damp bark. I closed my eyes and took a slow, long, deep breath. That faint and indescribable scent, heralding the beginning of winter, drew my thoughts back in time; back to those precious moments in the dead of winter when our whole family would gather and spend some time together. The afternoons where I’d just cuddle with my dad, snuggled against him under a thick blanket as my mum prepared us hot chocolate. We’d just watch the snow fall on Paris through the windows or watch TV together, absorbed in the Christmas cartoons.

My eyes lost themselves in the grey sky above me. It was rather comforting, actually. Nothing annoys me more than feeling sad on a sunny day. It would just… make me feel even worse, you know? A dark, cloudy day, on the other hand, matches perfectly my thoughts and allows me to wallow shamelessly in my misery. I’m not a gloomy person, but sometimes it just feels good to let go; to embrace whatever fate has planned for you.

“Lucas, come here, breakfast’s ready.” I was snapped out of my daydream by Rosa calling me from the window.

“I’m coming, give me a sec.”

I was feeling a bit better, but what happened yesterday was still stuck in my throat. It was eating me from the inside, and I couldn’t wait until Monday to make it up – if ever he shows up. Forget that, I will go to his house this very day and apologize. But… I don’t have his address. The hell with that! I’m not going to back down once again! I just hav…

“Hurry, it’s getting cold!” Arrrrgh! Can’t I have a bit of privacy here?! Though, as the good boy I was…

“Alright, alright, on my way…”

She had prepared some scrambled eggs and some of those ready-to-bake croissants. That wasn’t epic, but I wasn’t really hungry anyway. I was munching at my breakfast when the idea suddenly struck me. OF COURSE! I just have to find him on Facebook! Maybe his real name is on there, and I’ll be able to find his address in the phone book. I devoured the rest of my plate and ran to my room, thanking “Mum 2” – as I call her – with a kiss on the cheek.

As soon as I got on the computer, I rummaged around in Facebook to find his profile. Nathan? Hmm, nothing. Nate? Same. Damn… But… Wait! He probably follows our school’s page! After what felt like hours of scrolling down among hundreds of faces, it became clear that searching his name was hopeless. I could have browsed hundreds of profiles named Nathan, Nate; it would have been useless. In fact, he had the most adorable nickname: Nay Nay. It seemed like he wasn’t really active on the social media, because he was at least one year younger on his profile picture. But to be honest, it made him even cuter! He had this kind of smile that would melt you right away and this same playful spark in his ashen eyes that made him so adorable.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything in his information or statuses that would even remotely give me a clue about where he lives. Stalking a bit further through his profile, it seemed that we had a common friend. Awesome! I pulled my phone out and dialled his number.

“Hey buddy, how’s it going? … Hmmh. Yea, me too. Tell me, do you know this cu… ahem, do you know this boy from your class? Nathan, I think. … Yea, I’ve lent him a game and I’d like to get it back, could you give me his address? … Cool! 15 rue Jean Jaures? … Ok, I got it. Thanks! … Sure, see you on Monday!”

Sweet! It’s almost next door, I can be there in 10 minutes. I can’t really go barefoot, though. And if I have to put socks on, I might as well replace the rags I’m wearing with something that would make me a bit more… “attractive”. I mean, he called me a cutie, right? Maybe after I apologized… He’ll be grateful and maybe we will… Ah, forget it. I’ll already feel blessed if he accepts my apology. Hell, if he even accepts to talk to me after what I did, I’ll be in raptures!

Though, I didn’t want to be dressed as if I was going to a wedding. I need to keep it “cool”, you know? On calm reflection, I decided to wear my second-best clothes. A pair of light blue, slightly faded, Diesel jeans – not the ugly skinny ones – with a plain black shirt that matched my inky eyes. I wouldn’t make a great impression if I rang his bell while shivering and having the sniffles, so I slipped a pearl-grey zip-up hoodie on. To my surprise, I was pretty satisfied with what I saw in the mirror. I mean, nobody my age is especially pleased with his looks, but I caught myself thinking I was kind of… well, I wouldn’t go so far as using “hot”, but at the very least, cute.

The journey to his home was rather quick. At first, I considered using these 10 minutes to rehearse the speech I will give him; but I was rather sure that once in front of him, I’ll find myself babbling anyway. Instead, I used those precious minutes to relax and enjoy the townscape that I was still discovering. I missed Paris, its beautiful and majestic Haussmann buildings, the continuous flow of passers-by, and the stupefying view of the Eiffel Tower we had from our Penthouse. The suburban town we landed in was miles away from standing comparison. The buildings were lovely, but looked tiny and not as fancy; the parks were smaller and less maintained, and the streets were dirtier and soulless. Don’t get me wrong: this was a beautiful and calm city, but I was used to Paris splendour.

The further I walked away from my neighbourhood, the more shady people I noticed. It took me a few minutes to realize that I was getting closer to “that” part of the town. You know, the part where no one wants to go; except rich kids when they need to get drugs.

Fortunately, he was living a couple streets before the demarcation line – if you ever wonder what a demarcation line is and where it is in your town, ask a taxi driver where he doesn’t want to take you. The houses still looked somehow decent, yet you could tell time had done its ravages and public services wouldn’t venture into this neighbourhood very often. Give this latter a few years, and Michael’s house would fit in perfectly.

In front of his door, nervousness took over my body and I started fidgeting. What do I do? What do I say?! Shit! Maybe I should have rehearsed after all. You can’t believe how frightening a bell can seem in those situations. But I walked all the way to his house, I’m not going to chicken out now, right?! …right? I finally built up the courage to overcome my irrational fear and rang it.

After a few seconds – that I spent trying to wipe the sweat off my palms on the back of my jeans – I heard the lock click and the door opened. A gasp escaped my lips as the outcome of yesterday’s incident became tangible before my eyes. His upper lip was split and slightly swollen, a dark shade with hints of crimson was surrounding his left eye, and small plasters were applied on both his right cheekbone and eyebrow. The mere vision of my cutie being hurt like this overwhelmed me. I felt my heart shatter as the poignant reality hit me: it’s even worse than what I expected! I thought he would get away with a few bruises, but… this? He looked like a freaking boxer who had just lost a match!

It took all my will not to cry, and even more to resist the urge to take him into my arms. I wanted to hug him so bad! To nurse him and to make him feel better; but the moment was awkward enough. I’m pretty sure that any gesture of this kind would at best make him consider me as a creep, and probably get my ass kicked. And to be honest… I could tell he wasn’t pleased by my visit. The second he saw me standing on his porch, his face hardened and his polite smile faded in a blink. His eyes lost that playful spark I fancied so much; his glare became harsh, piercing through me with an anger I would have never expected in it.

“What are you doing here?” His tone was cold and sharp. “Upset that you didn’t get to take your shot?”

“What?! No! I just wanted to apolog…”

But before I could even finish my sentence, he gave me a glare full of contempt and shut the door in my face. My jaw dropped open in profound   amazement. What… what the hell just happened?! Out of all the scenarios I had made in my head before coming here, not a single one was even remotely close to this. I remained still, staring at the door with wide-open eyes. I tried my best to process what just took place, but I couldn’t. I don’t get it! I’m upset for what they did to him, not because I didn’t join them! Why would he think otherwise?!

I came here to apologize, and even if it would break my heart, I could live with the fact that he doesn’t want it. But leaving while he thinks I’m anywhere related to those bullies is not an option. I have to make him listen to me, and I have to do it today! I rang the bell again and waited for him to open the door, preparing to slide my foot to prevent him from closing it again.

And waited. And waited. And waited. And after 5 minutes of waiting… I realized that he would not show up. This painful realization implied another, a burning one: he hated me. He didn’t even want to talk to me. And the glare he gave me… it hurts. It really hurts. Seeing this kind of emotion, the level of disgust in the eyes of someone you cherish so much, is an experience that I wish on no one. It tears your very soul apart, and leaves you… empty.

I considered ringing again, but it was hopeless. Running home and sheltering there wasn’t an option either; so I did the only thing that I could: I sat on the sidewalk, hoping he would get out of his house later today. I resumed where I had left off last night; drowning in guilt and sadness. I wanted to cry, but my body wouldn’t.

 

I had probably been sitting there for a couple hours, because the sky was getting dark and the sun had become a barely noticeable glint through the concrete jungle that was the western part of the town. The air was getting colder and colder as the minutes flew by, and the shivers running through my body intensified. If I had known I was going to stay outside for so long, I would have picked warmer clothes. A passer-by stared at me as she walked, and her eyes transpired so much pity for the freezing boy I was that I figured it was time to go home. It was hopeless to stay here any longer; the night is falling, he probably won’t leave his house today. I will come back tomorrow, and try again – if I’m not bedridden sick by then.

I turned to give a last hopeful stare at his door; and to my greatest surprise, he was standing on his porch! Geez, I might have been really absorbed into my thoughts not to hear the door open. Fortunately, he hadn’t noticed me either, monopolized by his struggles with the defective lock of his door and keeping the beautiful German shepherd in leash that he was obviously taking for a walk. That’s my opening! I’m not leaving him a chance to shut me off before I have the time to talk to him. I sneaked behind him, walking on feathers in an attempt to be stealthy. A very foolish attempt. I had completely forgotten about the dog, who greeted me with growls as soon as I approached. Shit.

“Shh, sit.” Nathan said to his dog, who promptly obeyed. He turned and looked at me with an annoyed face. “Don’t you have anything else to do? Boys to beat up, puppies to kill? Basically anything that would get you out of my face?”

The lovely boy ‘Doctor Jekyll’ I met the day before seemed to have vanished, replaced by this cynic, cold, and awfully sharp-tongued ‘Hyde’.

“Come on, please! Don’t think I have anything to do with them. I hate them! They’re just people I know from school and…” I tried to explain, but he interrupted me midway.

“Really? Now you’re playing the “lies card”? I know that this Max is a good friend of yours, so quit it. Now here’s an idea for you: why don’t you find someone else to piss off with your babbling?”

That suggestion struck me right in the heart, and I did my best to suppress a wince. That’s fine, I can… I can take it. It’s just words, nothing more. And if I can’t stand myself for what happened yesterday… how can I expect him to do so?

“He was a good friend of mine until yesterday. Can we please just talk it out?” I pleaded, staring him directly in the eyes.

But they were still shooting daggers at me, and for his only response, he turned his back on me and started walking away.

“Fine then, I’ll just follow you until you’re willing to.”

I wore my best pouty face and followed him, staying a few steps behind. I’ve never been comfortable around dogs and given our first encounter a few minutes ago, I figured it would be wise to keep some distance. We walked for a few minutes and reached a quiet park. The path by which we arrived would split in two, going left and right, and eventually join again on the other side of the pond. The park was bathed in an eerie atmosphere. A deafening silence reigned, only disturbed by a few owls and the noises of the dog exploring the thickets; and the water surface reflected the dim light of the moon, casting broody shadows as the branchlets of the willow tree would brush against it. This is definitely the kind of place into which I would never venture alone; especially at night, when everything is dark. Fortunately, the moon was full tonight; and more even than keeping away the darkness, it was doing a wonderful job of illuminating the boy who was walking before me. Every time he turned his head, the night star would bless me with a mesmerizing vision; bathing his face in a soothing light, smoothening his every wound. I wonder how his eyes look right now. The white, natural, light is most likely to enhance the hypnotizing quartz of it. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t even grant me a single glance.

I couldn’t help but abandon myself to a lustful stare as he slightly leant forward to unleash his dog. Wow! I noticed the first time I laid my eyes on him that he had a nice derriere, but the way the fabric of his pants stretched at this moment revealed to my eyes the most beautiful shapes I had ever seen. Forget Nicki Minaj, forget Kardashian; his was ten times better! It was so round and looked so smooth that I seriously considered giving it a discrete squeeze. Or, you know, getting closer and… hah, I’ll just enjoy the view.

Once the dog was free to wander around, he stood up and turned around to face me. Did I complain about the annoyed face he gave me earlier? I take that back. The way he was staring at me now… wow. The anger burning in his eyes was so tangible that I unconsciously took a step back.

“What the hell is wrong with you? Don’t you get it? I don’t want to see any of you EVER AGAIN?! Fuck off!” His voice had risen, and his fists were clenched menacingly at his side.

The bit of self-control that I had evaporated when I heard those two words. It echoed in my head and shattered me; my emotional defences gave way and the tears that had built up since the very second I woke up today flowed, leaving a cool trail as they rolled down my cheeks. I locked my eyes onto his, a salty taste in my mouth, hoping that my hurt puppy face would touch him. However, far from softening him, it seemed to make him even angrier. He stepped closer, never breaking the eye contact. He was only inches from me now, and I could almost feel his short breath on my face. The air was thick from the rising tension; so thick that his dog had noticed it and was now trotting his way back to the feet of his master. Why did I even come here? I should have stayed home! Deep down, I knew from the beginning that it was a bad idea. But… I really like him! And if it’s what it takes… I will man up and face it. Or “die tryin’”, as says the guy.

He was scaring me at this point, and I know I should have left but… my feet wouldn’t move. I know I should have broken the contact and looked at my feet, but I couldn’t. I was still hoping that the sweet boy I knew would surface, if only I gave him enough time and a sufficient dose of puppy eyes.

“I said, FUCK OFF!” the words burst out of his mouth as he shoved me hard enough to make me lose my balance and fall back.

My head hit the ground in a painful thump and a whine escaped my lips the moment the pain struck me. It felt like my skull had been torn apart! My vision blurred and I thought I was going to pass out. The moon in the sky was nothing but a bright, distorted pebble in a dark lake, swinging as the dizziness took me over. I rubbed my eyes, hoping that it would make it better, when I heard him yell something that I couldn’t process. I raised on my free elbow to see what it was about; but as soon as I took my hand off my eyes, I was shoved back down and a lightning, stinging, pain travelled my forearm.

“OWWWWWWW! FUCK!!” It made me regain my senses in a blink. My eyes burst open to a pair of brown and menacing eyes, surrounded by dark fur. I was facing a beast, only a couple inches from my face, snarling and showing his teeth, now soaked in blood. He had me pinned down with both of his paws buried in my chest so painfully that I was left breathless. I raised my forearm and held it between the dog and my face, the drops of blood dripping from the deep and stinging punctures soaking my face and clothes. I was too afraid to move, too afraid to even make a sound; but I couldn’t stay in this position. He is going to freaking eat me!

I looked helplessly at Nate, begging him with my eyes to do something. Anything. Whatever could help me; but he looked as desperate as I was. His fists were still trembling, but not from anger; he was idly stunned by what happened before his wide-open eyes. Realizing how helpless and shocked he was, I built up the courage to defy the dog and begged him.

“Nathan… please…” I whined.

As soon as the words escaped my lips, he regained his senses.

“Oh shit!!” He grabbed his dog by the collar with both hands and pulled it off of me. “Oh my god, dude, are you alright?!”

“Yeah… I think so.”

I laid my head back on the ground and let out a sigh of relief. What the fuck was that? Did he just…. did he just unleash his dog at me? What a fucker! I don’t even know why I bothered coming here, he’s just an asshole. Maybe he *deserved* the beating after all, if that’s how he treats people! I came here to apologize, and the psycho tries to feed me to his dog! Screw him! I tried to get up but leant on the now injured elbow. I winced in pain and fell miserably back down.

“I’m so sorry!” he told me as he held out his hand. “He probably thought we were fighting and tried to defend me!”

I pushed his hand away and got up, using my fit arm this time.

“And what exactly is shoving someone to the ground, for you?” I asked, pressing on the wounds with my other hand and staring at him, looking for a reaction. But I got none. Not a blink. Not a word. Nothing. “Yeah… Whatever” I shook my head and turned away, heading home.

I should have never come here.

Published July 1, 2016

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