Chapter 4 – Pretty Poison
Silence. We both said nothing as I continued to stare at a heavily breathing Salem who was staring at the ground as we both knelt about two feet away from each other in front of his dresser in his bedroom. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I mean, my god. I just kissed a boy. And, I barely even knew this kid! I never kissed someone before. I mean, I suppose I never really felt the need or desire to do so. But, if I said that what had just occurred didn’t give me shivers down my spine and throughout my entire body that I did not understand or had ever felt before… I’d be lying.
I, finally, decided to break the silence, seeing as how his frightened face remained frozen onto his visage and he still wasn’t saying anything. I was, actually, beginning to get a little nervous & worried. He wasn’t even moving. He didn’t look right. He looked like a ghost; he had the same look on his face that a warrior would have right after he had just seen his fellow soldiers being brutally decapitated in combat.
“Uhm… Salem?” He said nothing. Nothing at ALL. “Salem.” I said a bit more sternly to issue a response back in an attempt to snap the ice he was mentally & physically trapped in at that moment. “…Salem??” I said a bit louder.
He gave a sudden look I cannot describe other than- “realization of his actions” and he just turned his body around and knelt facing away from me sitting on the back of his feet and I saw his head go down and his hands come up to cover his face. He didn’t acknowledge me. He didn’t look at me. I was shunned out of the cocoon he had built for himself, just then, for protection as if a tornado was blowing and he was shielding himself from its violent gusts of wind. He was sobbing. I heard him. Oh my god. I never heard a kid cry or sob so deeply before. He just sounded broken. It was a horrible sound to hear. Very rarely, in life, do you ever get to hear a person cry a truly heart felt, deep sob & when you do, all superficial things we tend to worry about get blocked away; you are shattered back into reality, realizing, just how real this world can be & that it isn’t always fun & kisses all the time.
He couldn’t control his crying as it flooded out of his throat in a horrid river of sobs and broken up breathing to himself. He gasped as he breathed in each broken up inhale as he struggled with the ability to breathe properly, choking on his own grief and embarrassment. It literally sounded like pain. If pain made a noise which came straight from someone’s heart, that’s exactly what it would sound like. It was almost disgusting how badly I felt for him at that moment. It sounded as though his mother had just passed away and he placed the final white lily onto her casket as they were about to walk away from her for the very last time right before they were about to bury her in the ground as his mind remembered how they would always bake cookies every Saturday afternoon for her bakery together, and at that moment when that lily fell and touched that casket, he realized that he would never get the chance to ever mix a single batch of cookies with her ever again.
A decision had to be made, just then. I, instinctively, scooted myself to be able to be in arms length with him. I hesitated. What would happen if I did this? How would he react if I tried to comfort him? This kid was, again, unstable; he was wild to say the least; I couldn’t & didn’t really trust him; and, apparently, no one else did, not even his own blood. The leash which was always tightly around his neck to restrain him from hurting others wherever he was, was unfastened and I was right there in harm’s way if he decided to, suddenly, take advantage of that, turn against me, & release all of his anger & rage on me as he chased me like some wild animal like I was his prey as I made a mad dash for it like some squirrel being chased to go back & hide back in my tree.
Now that I knew his… secrets, it was even more risky. Again, I hesitated. But, with an exhale, I softly placed my hand on his shoulder from behind him and I spoke his name once more.
Instantly, he jerked away from me and turned his head around to look at me so fast if I hadn’t blinked, I wouldn’t have noticed. It scared me. He looked RIGHT at me with wide eyes. They were all red and puffy. His cheeks were damp. He just looked like he was mad & hurt at the same time which is an expression you don’t see too often and when you do you almost think- “How do I react to this”? It made my own heart twitch just to see him like that. He jerked away from me in defense.
I tried again. “Salem.” He kept crying to himself like he was before. “It’s-it’s okay.” I wanted to comfort him, somehow, for some reason. I just felt that it was my obligation. With my hand on his shoulder again he tensed up, but, he didn’t remove his hands from his face as he remained hunched over in a fetal position like a caterpillar.
I don’t know why, but, I decided to move closer and I wrapped my arms around him in a friendly manor. I rested my head on his shoulder towards the back as he was hunched over. I felt him trembling. I felt each broken up breathe that he took. He relaxed a bit as I started to massage his side and back with my hand a bit as I tried to relax him. “It’s-it’s okay.” I tried to whisper to him. He turned around very slowly with his head bent down in a shameful manor puckering out his bottom lip in a pout the same way that a child would if they were just told by their parents to complete a chore they did not wish to complete at the time or they could no longer go outside to play with all of their friends and he timidly wrapped his arms around me not once looking up in my direction. He rested his head on my shoulder as we both knelt facing each other and I tried to rub his back to calm him. This was …interesting.
“God. I’m so sorry.*sniff sniff* I’m soo sorry. I hate this. … UGH! …F**k!!” He made an irritated sound that just expressed how frustrated and sad he felt. He was obviously embarrassed by his feelings which he had just displayed to me. The way I was holding him was sort of the way a mother would hold her child after they were about to go into the ER for a serious surgical procedure and they would not be calm unless their mother reassured and comforted them right before as she repeated to them one last time that everything would be just fine, go as planned, she would be right outside waiting the entire time until the procedure was finished, and would be right there when they woke up, looking down at them with a smile. It felt, at that moment that he needed to have reassurance in some way from me, but I didn’t know what I could even offer him, exactly. I mean, I only knew him for 8 days. What else could I do? I was trying here.
“Yeah-It’s okay.” I said. I don’t know why, but, as I held him like that, I felt… scared; I was really on edge for some reason, almost frightened, as though I was in the jungle and there were wild creatures lurking about ready to pound on us any minute. There was nothing scary at all really happening here, yet, I felt terrified & even caught myself shaking a bit as if we were outside in 15 degree weather and we were both holding each other for dear life in order to share & conserve as much over our body heat with one another as much as possible so we would not become victims to the weather’s sub zero effects on our bodies & to avoid frost bite.
Maybe, it was because this person I had only known for about a solid week’s worth of time was just lashing out at me, uncontrollably, a few minutes ago and now was sobbing in my arms. But, feeling his body so close to mine and him, actually, moving made me feel one thing that can only be described in one word- discomfort. I got nervous. I never held another person like this before. I’ve never been in this position in my life. I was comforting him. It was awkward. Yet, I sort of felt a satisfaction from doing this. Why did I like this so much? That’s sick, right? That’s sick of me to feel some type of pleasure knowing that someone was hurt & I was making them feel better, right? Why would that excite me for some reason? Is that selfish? I’m pretty sure it is.
He was hot & bothered with emotion. It was at that moment that I fully realized that the person that I was holding onto in my arms, the person who just threw a shoe at my face and almost gashed my lip with it, the person I ate Chinese food with, the person I thought of as the “bad boy in class” when I very first met him & subtly admired him for that, the person that I had thought about in an unusual way while eating my frozen yogurt at Sweetie’s, the place which was deemed as the town’s main frozen yogurt shop by the locals & most of the kids from school, was gay. Gay. I remember, distinctly, feeling my eyes widen as I held him when I thought that. I mean, I never met a gay person in real life before. Well, I probably have; but, not one that I knew, for a fact, was or freaking kissed me in order to tell me for that matter. What does this even mean? Do I see him differently, now, then I did before? The truth is, I did.
At first, when I rubbed his back and wrapped him in my embrace to comfort him & stop the horrible sounds he was making, it was just a simple brotherly gesture of support. But, now, as I remembered his orientation, his secrets, and the actual reason why he was even crying in the first place, I felt awkward. Any touch I made to his body felt like an automatic, romantic, and hidden sneaky touch. Does that make any sense? I felt since I, then, knew he …liked me, if I touched him, it was almost intimate without me even meaning to have it pass off that way. I felt weird. It got weird for me. I let go.
He looked up at me slowly as I did. We looked at each other for about 3 whole seconds just staring into the other’s eyes as I glared into his red & puffy ones. Just, then, I felt something. I sort of resented it for a brief moment. It was foreign to me. It felt taboo & sort of bittersweet at the same time like chewing on a piece of rich dark chocolate. A that moment, I-
I jumped. The door bell rang downstairs. We looked at each other for a moment. And, he got up so fast as if nothing had just happened, quickly wiping his face with his shirt by lifting it from the bottom near his waist to clean his tears as if he was playing a sport and wiped the sweat, quickly, after his runs and walked out of his room and ran down the stairs to open the door.
Some noises were heard from upstairs where I was. I could seldomly distinct the sounds of some muffled talking, then, silence, and, then, I heard his father’s voice speak even louder than the volume he was using originally. He knew. He knew that I was in his house alone with Salem and I didn’t think that the situation was going to pan out so well at all.
“Hey.” Sarah said to me as she walked up to his doorway and saw me just kneeling on his floor and staring down lost in my own thoughts in a blank stare. “Are you okay?” She asked. I looked up I suppose with a look of fear because she, instantly, looked a bit concerned with a wrinkled nose. “What’s going on? Did he… do anything?”
“No.” I lied. “No not at all. Why? What’s up?” You know, I’m turning into quite the good liar now a days. If she only knew what had just occurred a mere few minutes prior, she’d flip her pickles.
“Sigh. Okay…. Listen.” She said as she shut and then LOCKED the door. She walked up to me with a very serious look and kneeled down about a foot from me and stared at the floor as she contemplated how she was going to tell me what she wished to say at that moment. It must have been a touchy subject I reckoned from how she paused for about 7 seconds before saying. “I’m going to say this to you in confidence because I’ve known you for a while and you seem like the type to be smart enough to understand a bit, okay? But, you cannot tell anyone this.” She paused. “Salem is different. He’s not like other kids. We brought him here because…” she hesitated. “…certain things happened at home in NY and we needed to have him here to live with us in the suburbs. We’re watching him.” She, instantly, covered up that statement. “We’re… keeping an eye on him. I know you two have been getting along which is great, but, you don’t understand how rare this is.”
“What?” I asked. What was she getting at?
“Salem rarely makes new friends, if not, ever. He really doesn’t let people in who aren’t from at least 5 years ago before- uhm well- I mean…” she stopped speaking for a moment almost as if she regretted her words. A pause arose and then she continued. “He especially doesn’t let people around us he doesn’t know or who aren’t from before…” I let her continue. “I don’t want to say this. But, he has a warning for certain actions he has done. He’s not allowed to be alone with anyone but family. It’s risky. He has this…thing.” She paused and I just stared at her not understanding what she meant. “Salem has this …mood that no one seems to understand, not even me. He doesn’t just have a bad temper, sometimes. I don’t even know if you’ve noticed his temper anyway, just yet.” If she only knew how much I really did know. She sighed. “He… changes.” She looked almost frightened as she said that giving a blank look that seemed as if she was remembering a horrific & tragic series of memories from the past. She said nothing for a total of about 5 seconds as that look remained frozen onto her face.
She decided to continue. “And, one time he…” She tried to muster up her thoughts & put them into words. “He acted like he didn’t even know me. He didn’t seem to care about me at all and didn’t even recognize me. It scared me so much & it, honestly, felt like we weren’t alone. He looked at me like I was his worst enemy. And, when I tried to explain to him who I was, he got so angry that I had to leave because I was afraid something really bad would happen or he would hurt me. I didn’t even tell my dad about that, yet. I’m only saying this because you really seem like such a good kid. I’ve always loved that about you. But, he can be scary, sometimes, and I never want to see anything happen to you. It’d break me. So, he’s not really allowed to be with you without us at least knowing about it or unless we are near by. I hope you’re not mad & understand. I care about you, hon.”
I just stared at her. I noticed. She had a slight right pink eye and a tear was fighting mercilessly to stay back inside and not show itself in front of me. “Okay. I’m really sorry. I had no idea.” I said, shocked at this unusual behavior which Sarah had just briefed me on, secretly.
“I really hope you don’t see him any differently. I really didn’t want to tell you. But, there’s no way around it & you would have found out the hard way sooner or later, anyway. You’ve been so good for him lately, especially now. He could really use a better influence like you instead of-.”
*bang bang bang* “Sarah?” I heard Salem say much louder than necessary. “Sarah what are you doing? Sarah? Sarah?!” He screeched in a way that broke his own voice from talking so loud. It startled me. It was so random. What the-?
“Oh.” She said with wide eyes, trying to come up with something to say. “Uhm, I just said hi to Johnny. I haven’t talked to him really in a while.”
“Then why is my door locked!?”
Silence. “SARAH!” She got up & opened his bedroom door. He looked up at her with a stare. It was a blank look that said absolutely nothing and he entered the room. He walked right up to me and stopped. He looked hazily into my eyes for about 3 whole seconds as I caught his eyes glancing at my face up & down for a moment. He was looking right at me. I gulped. Suddenly, he took my hand, pulled me up & dragged me right out of his door, not even once looking at her. He never let go. He dragged me so fast down his stairs, that I almost fell on him just trying to keep up with his quick pace.
“Where are you going?” His father asked him in shock & anger. I looked at him. Now, knowing that I was not allowed in the house at that very moment, I wanted to say something. But, I was, instantly, dragged out of the living room before I even had the chance to say anything to him and Salem opened the door to leave, never once letting go of my hand. His father saw us. I noticed. I saw him looking at our hands. My god. Did Salem even realize or care about what was happening? What the hell!?
“We’re leeeeeeeaaving.” Salem said in that snake-like, low voice giving his dad a blank, ghost-like, possessed glare. His father looked at him with raised eyebrows, wide eyes, and a slightly opened mouth, most likely, in shock from his son’s unusual answer.
Salem then pulled me hard as he dragged us both out of the inside door and then through the outside side door and, then, slammed it so hard that it made the wall of the house from the outside vibrate from what I saw.
“Bulls**t.” he muttered as he dragged me hard behind him as he walked in a quick pace on the sidewalk. I couldn’t even say “Hi.” or “Goodbye.” to Mr. Claymore! What’s he doing? Where are we going? I turned to look at him as I pulled my hand from his hand as I sped up so I was next to him to see his face and he just stared at the sky in front of him on the horizon in a blank, menace stare with dark circles around his eyes as if he was a warrior about to enter serious combat and the enemy army was right in front of him.
“You’d better not watch me.” He said, not once looking at me as we kept walking. “Don’t look at me.” He said.
What do I even say to that? What does this all mean? I had nothing else to say or do in shock of his actions. Three words popped into my head at that moment for some random reason-
Where? What? Why?
🍪🥛Here is your official Triple Chocolate Truffle Chunk Cookie with milk from Johnny’s old Denver house for reading this far.😋 Don’t worry. They baked ‘em fresh for ya.
I maaaaaaaaay have stolen some cookie dough & eaten it.
Okay, I did.