Breaking Masks

by Dabeagle & Josh Aterovis


Chapter 16


My breath plumed out in front of me in the cold morning, and I stamped my feet on the sidewalk to keep my blood flowing. God it was cold! No one ever told me it got this cold here. What would happen when winter actually arrived? Marla's car pulled into the small lot, and a moment later she turned the corner, smoking the last of her pre-work carcinogens.

“We can't talk about Max. I won't be able to stop laughing and we won't get any work done at all.” Marla stated flatly. We both burst into laughter as she unlocked the door and we stepped into the warmth of the shop. I started the coffee pots right away, knowing I'd need some really quickly. Marla put her coat away, and I followed suit once the pots were happily gurgling to themselves.

“So how are things with you and Mr. Cutie Patootie?”

“His name is Jake, and things are so totally awesome.” I sighed.

“Oh ho!” Marla turned with a hand on her hip and a smile on her lips. “Dish the dirt. Is he a good kisser?”

“Well, he'll need some more practice before he's perfect at it. But I intend to give him all the practice he wants!” I laughed.

“Oh, that's so cute!” Marla laughed as she put the alarm code into the safe. “Did you guys spend the weekend together?”

“Pretty much, we went to the concert Friday and we danced.” I blushed and Marla broke into a big smile.

“Is he a good dancer?”

“I ... don't remember! I was so busy looking at him and enjoying how he felt next to me ... ” I trailed off as I remembered how it felt to be in his arms.

“Sounds like someone is falling hard,” she said as she filled the cash register with daily funds.

I shrugged. “Way past that. He owns me even if he doesn't know it yet.” She just laughed again, but as I finished getting the store ready and poured us both cups of coffee, I realized with a hint of fear that I wasn't lying or even exaggerating. If I thought I was scared before, I was terrified now.

My shift ended, and it was time for me to get to class, but Jake hadn't been in for his morning coffee yet. I made Marla promise to take good care of him and headed off. On the way, I acquired an escort roughly the size of Manhattan.

“Morning, Roy,” I commented.

“Hi Kody.”

“How'd things go with you and Jen?” I turned to look at him.

“Oh, good! I don't have to talk much. She seems to like me okay. I was thinking maybe we could all go out sometime-or something.”

“Hmm, did you run that idea by Jake yet?”

“No, he wasn't awake when I stopped by his room. Foster was still asleep too, but he had a class at eight so I guess he missed it.”

“Does he do that a lot?” I asked. I was secretly thinking that if Foster flunked out, I was applying to live in the dorms. I already had a room picked out!

“Yeah, I guess so. People think I'm dumb, but he's stupid.”

“It's been said ignorance can be educated, drunkenness sobered but stupid-” I tried to clasp Roy's shoulder and settled for his upper arm. “-stupid is forever.”

Roy rumbled a chuckle in reply. “So how are things going with Jake?”

“Pretty good, I think. I just gotta quit being dumb about him.” I grimaced.

“Well, this good friend of mine said that dumb can be made smarter and stupid-no, drunk-no, wait ... ”

I just shook my head. We arrived at class, took our seats, and were quickly swept away in facts and pages of notes. I would have been more swept away except that Roy forgot his pen, and then he realized he had the wrong notebook, and could he have a few pieces of paper? Next thing you know, we were like the world's goofiest Siamese twins as we looked on at the same textbook.

“How do you forget everything you need for a class?” I hissed at him.

“I grabbed her books this morning by mistake.”

“You ... her ... what?”

“I went to Jen's last night and stayed the night-” Roy started but I cut him off.

“I don't want to know.”


“I don't want to know!” I insisted.

“But we didn't-”


“So is it okay if we share a book this morning?”

“As long as you don't share anything else about last night, sure!”

“But it was fun.”

“Roy ... ” My voice took on a tone of warning.

“What?” he asked innocently.

“I. Don't. Want. To. Know,” I said through gritted teeth.



“I don't know why you are so uptight about sex, Kody,” he whispered.

Argh! Would this class never end?

“Roy, do you picture Jake and I having sex?”

“What? No! I'm not gay!”

“Well I am, and I don't want to picture you and Jen making the two backed beast!” I whispered fiercely.

“Doing what?”

“Screwing, fucking, doing the horizontal mambo!” I rolled my eyes and wondered what I had done, exactly, to deserve this.

“Oh!” Roy said in a tone that revealed this had never occurred to him. “Sorry, Kody.”

“That's okay, as long as we understand each other.”

“We do.”


The professor droned and my mind desperately tried to focus on the material. It wasn't easy to do, especially with Roy sitting next to me trying to read the same bits I was.

“Well, since you brought it up, are you guys doing it?”

I slammed my book shut and grabbed my notebook, taking only enough time to growl in frustration and shoot Roy as dirty a look as I could muster. Was nothing sacred?

* * *

I walked briskly across campus trying to get the image of Roy without any clothes on out of my head. Why, oh why, did he do that to me? At least he didn't get more descriptive, like leather or something. Argh! Roy in leather chaps could make me never have a single sexual thought again. And I'd done that to myself!

I stalked into the library, contemplating being a virgin for life, and not liking it very much. The fact that Jake seemed to hesitate and run whenever we got within sight of the bedroom door wasn't helping either. He'd had sex before, I was sure of it. One doesn't go through life looking the way Jake Sheridan does and not get some play.

I picked a table near the windows and sat down with my books, figuring I'd read the chapter we were studying in class before Roy had told me all about- Damn! I'd done it again! I'd thought I felt sorry for Jake walking in on his roommate, but this was torture. I wondered if Roy would ever bang Jake's roomie? Ugh! I smacked my head on the table top repeatedly to drive the image out. I am too twisted for my own good.

I put my notebook on the table and grabbed a pen before cracking the text book. Being so prepared, I promptly looked out the window to daydream about Jake. He could be so sweet, and I still couldn't believe he was interested in me, but what gave with the sex thing? Could he be really bad at it? Yeah, right. Okay, let's look for something realistic now. He has no freaking scars on his body. Well, his upper body. Maybe that's it, he has scars on his legs or something and he's embarrassed. What else could it possibly be? I haven't seen him in shorts, but if his legs look anything like the skin on his chest I'd probably pass out anyway.

Then it hit me. I am so stupid! It's not Jake at all. It's me.

How could I be so dumb? I could see it clearly now. He was just waiting to let me down easy. I wondered if it was difficult to do that, to break someone's heart. Now I felt like dog crap, but I knew that I would continue to see Jake right up to when he laughed at me and told me to go away until I had some sexual experience or grew two inches. Either way I was screwed.

I sat brooding on the day outside. The weather couldn't decide if it wanted to be gloomy or bright, so it was doing both. Clouds would roll in, darken everything, and then the sun would break through and paint light on the earth. I waxed and waned like that too, wondering if I was right about Jake wanting to let me down easy, and feeling a dread in the back of my mind that I'd stumbled across the truth.

The seat across from me was suddenly occupied by a petite girl with long dark hair. She looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place why.

“Hi, I feel a little silly asking you this, but ... are you Jake Sheridan's boyfriend?”

“Uh, yeah.” I was completely shocked to be having this conversation. Who was this girl? How did she know Jake and I were together?

“Good, I would have felt silly otherwise!” She giggled and gave me a cheerleader smile. A memory was working its way forward from the back of my mind. She looked so familiar!

“I'm sorry, do I know you?” I asked.

“No, I don't think so. I guess I should get to the point.” She wrapped a few strands of her hair around a finger, playing with it as she spoke. “Well Jake kind of had a thing for me a while ago, and I was dumb and played into it. He's a pretty guy, who could blame me, right?”

I looked at her blankly. Was she out of her mind?

“Well, things went bad pretty quickly, but I found out some stuff on Jake. See, I did this Internet search to kind of help get me ready for doing research for school, and I found out some really freaky stuff.” She gave me a small, fake smile before she continued. “Has Jake told you about the drugs and alcohol problems he had?”

“Of course,” I replied. If that was all she was talking about she was scaring me for nothing!

“Oh, I am so relieved! At least he was honest with you about that part. That whole Fenton Black thing just blew my mind!”

“Fenton Black?”

“Yeah! You know, the guy that was giving him all the drugs and fucking him in trade? I don't think Jake's even gay, he just goes where the money is.”

“Fu-what?” Jake was a whore? He ... sold his body for drugs?

“Oh! I'm sorry,” she put a hand over her small bow shaped mouth. “You said he told you, so I thought you knew. I mean, I had to find out after he dumped me. I thought it was me, but then I realized it was because he expected to be paid. If I were you I'd cut him loose fast, you might catch something. Here, take these and count yourself lucky.”

She pulled a manila folder from her backpack and slid it across the table to me. I recoiled from it as though it were a sack of slithering snakes. I hate snakes.

“It's all in there. He's a real whore, you know? Just like the ones you can hire in New York City. He did pretty well for himself, considering-”

“Leave,” I choked out.

“I'm sorry, are you-"

“I said leave!

She smiled and turned with a flip of her hair. I looked down at the folder with a sense of doom. Could it be true? Jake was pretty enough to get whoever he wanted, would he actually want someone to pay for it? Maybe he was waiting for me to wake up and discuss prices before he took anything off. Oh my God. I cradled my head in my hands, took a few deep breaths, and opened the folder.

The first page was from a newspaper article, posted online. There a picture of an older, attractive man and under the picture was the caption 'Fenton Black estate under investigation on charges of drug trafficking and prostitution ring.'

Oh God, it's true. It's really true.

* * *

I spent the afternoon going over every sordid detail in the folder. My heart felt as though it was pumping my very life from my body, and I could see no way to stop the bleeding. I sat in a daze, unable to cope with the realization. I tucked the folder in my backpack and started walking back to my apartment. I needed to talk to Dad. I needed to hear his voice right now.

As I walked up Central Avenue, I was startled from my black thoughts by the pulsating bright lights of an ambulance in front of my store. I picked up my pace, hoping there was nothing serious going on. Well, of course it was serious. Otherwise the paramedics wouldn't be there. I stepped in the front door and took in the room. The paramedics were behind the counter and Marla stood off to one side with a worried hand placed on her forehead. I approached her and placed a hand on her arm. She jumped at my touch.

“Kody, you scared the hell out of me!” she said while throwing her arms around me. “I need a hug.”

“What's going on?” I asked as I clumsily returned the hug, feeling grateful for the contact as well.

“Max passed out. She didn't look good. I don't know what's going on. They're taking her to the hospital, but I can't go because we don't have anyone for the store until Mike gets here. He called and said he was having car trouble.” She looked at me with wide eyes. “Could you go with Max until I can get there?”

“Um ... ” I felt trapped, what was I supposed to do? I couldn't leave Max alone like that-she'd been good to me. “Yeah, I guess so.” Marla gave me all of Max's things-ID, insurance cards, and so on. The stretcher was lifted into the ambulance and I was seated in the back for the ride to St. Peter's Hospital.

After the triage nurse had all the information she needed, I sat in the waiting room and fell immediately back to my earlier thoughts of Jake. What was I going to do? If I took Jake at face value, which was hard to do considering how many times I'd been screwed over by countless other guys, the pieces started to fall into place for me. All those times when he would zone out, maybe he was remembering something unpleasant. That made sense if he was embarrassed about his past. I thought about the times I remembered him being there, but not there. The time on the bus to the mall was a perfect example. The 'sex issue' came up, and he squeezed my hand so freakin' hard I thought my bones would grind together, but he just stared into space.

Could that be the bottom of his fears? Could it be he really meant the things he had said and was just afraid? I thought on this for a moment. I'd never known anyone like him, so it makes a certain amount of sense that his background would be a completely alien to me as well. But this?

Jake gave no hint of these demons in his past. He certainly didn't seem slutty. He didn't talk like he was from the gutter or anything. He didn't wear revealing clothing, and he sure wouldn't do anything with me. So what would have given away that he used to be a ... God! I couldn't even think it. Not Jake. Not my Jake.

“Have you heard anything yet?” Marla asked as she placed her hand on my shoulder, scaring the crap out of me.

“Marla!” I gasped.

“I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you. Have they said anything about Max yet?”

“No. No one's been out since they took her back. She looked kind of okay when they wheeled her away though. She had a little color back in her face.”

“Oh, if something happens I'll kill her,” Marla grumbled while taking the seat next to me.

“She'll be okay.”

“So, what had you in such deep thought?”

“Just ... stuff.”

“Jake, I'll bet.”

“I need to make a phone call,” I said suddenly. I was not telling anyone Jake's past. Not entirely because I was ashamed of what he had been, either. A part of it, a bigger part than the guilt, was out of loyalty and a protective feeling for him because of what he had given me the past week or two.

I got up and followed the signs to the bank of telephones with the thought of calling home. I needed to hear the voices that loved me. That would help me make sense of all this. I stood dumbly in front of the phones, wondering if I had lost my mind. My father would, of course, tell me to get out of the relationship. If Sheridan answered, he'd give me to my dad. I still needed to hear them, even if I didn't tell them what was up.

I reached slowly for the phone with leaden arms. The need mixed with my doubts, my heart breaking for Jake, and maybe a little for me, too. My hand finally made contact, and my fingers dialed my calling card number from memory.

Busy. I couldn't believe it. It was like being trapped in some gay Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks flick. I leaned against the wall and waited. At least this was better than Marla interrogating me. I felt a tear welling as I thought of Jake in someone else's arms, someone who only cared for what he was on the outside, someone who only saw the tanned skin and the silken locks.

Another tear dropped for me, for the loss of any trace of innocence. After so many failed relationships, so many rainbows chased and no pots of gold to show for it, could I really be expected to take no more Jake in my life?

I grabbed the phone again and dialed home. The line rang twice, and then Charlie's voice came through the handset. I'd never tell him, but right then he sounded like a chorus of angels to my ears.


“Ch-Charlie? It's Kody. Man, it's good to hear your voice.”

“What's wrong?”

“Nothing. Where's Dad.”

“He and Sheridan are screwing right now. What's wrong?” I broke into laughter at his irreverent answer. I was already glad I'd made the call.

“Seriously, where's Dad?”

“Nude car hunting. What's wrong?”

“Charlie! Jeez, where's Dad?”

“Grocery shopping for sex toys. Does it really matter? I'm not telling you until you talk to me!” he said sternly. I heard the sound of a latch in the background, and I quickly questioned him as to what it was.

“Closet door, so they don't hear me. I swear they spy on me these days. They catch you with one guy in your room and you're branded for life!”

“Charlie!” I giggled.

“Actually, I just brought a puppy home and they're pissed 'cause they fell in love with him at first sight. So seriously, Kody, what's wrong?”

I sighed deeply. “The train wreck that is my life just went off the tracks again.”

“Okay, so tell me what could be so bad?”

“Oh Charlie, I don't know how to say it ... I'm not sure I can say it.”

“Kody, just let the words come out and we'll sort it out together. Just like always.”

“I don't know if this one can be fixed. Jake has ... well, he did some bad things- things that I'm having trouble coping with.”

“What could be so bad? He sounded like a great guy to me.”

“I thought he was.” I sighed and leaned against the wall as I turned from another payphone patron. “Charlie, he-oh God. He sold his body. For money. For ... for drugs.”

“Wow. He didn't sound like that kind of guy to me, but you know him, he must have had reasons.” Charlie's voice strengthened. “Are you going to dump him or give him a second chance?”

“I don't know what to do!” I wailed into the phone. “He makes me so happy and I want to be near him all the time. He's so sweet, and I thought he really cared for me. But now I keep seeing the face of this guy on my Jake-sweating and ... and ... Oh fuck me!”

I heard a gasp, and half-turned to see an overweight woman grab the cross hanging from about her neck and glare at me. I frowned back at her and turned away. Who cares what she thinks?

“That's incest, I can't.” Charlie quipped. “But let's get back to this other stuff.”

“You're not funny, Charlie. Now isn't the time.”

“Okay, so Jake has a past. He's eighteen now, so that means he existed for seventeen years before you came into his life. He was bound to make a few mistakes.”

“A past is one thing, but this? Prostitution? This guy, this drug dealer got him high and then he-oh God, I can't say it.” I stared blankly at the wall, my tears coursing helplessly down my cheeks.

“Why can't you say it, Kode?” Charlie asked softly.

“Because I love him,” I whispered.

“After all that, you still love him?”

I nodded to myself. “The thought of someone touching him so intimately, it makes me so mad, more pissed than I have ever felt about anything before. How can I face him?”

“How do you think he faced you all this time? What if he loves you, too, Kody? What then?”

“You think I should act like this never happened?” I asked incredulously. “How can I just gloss this over?”

“I'm not saying you forget. You never forget ... ” Charlie's voice trailed off.

“What are you-”

“I have to tell you something, Kody, something that's not easy for me to say, so don't interrupt. The worst thing you could do to me would be to stop loving me, to take you away from me. I'd die.”


“No. Be quiet. I need to tell you this. This is my biggest secret, one I never thought I would tell you in case you hated me for it, but you need to hear it because it might mean something to you right now. It might mean the difference between your happiness and closing yourself off from someone that might just love you.”

“What are you talking about?”

“If you remember, I was pretty quiet when I first moved in with you and Dad. I was quiet because I was afraid. While I was on the road, on my way here, I had to rely on strangers for help, sometimes money. I couldn't always do regular work for that money, Kode. Sometimes I had to ... do things. I had to.”

My mind was spinning. Charlie? No, no, not my Charlie.


“Yeah,” I whispered.

“Do you still love me?”

I nodded wearily, my head like a lead weight on my shoulders.

“Kody, I know you. You probably just nodded, but I can't see you. I need to hear it. Please?”

“I'll always love you, Charlie,” I said softly.

“Then don't kick Jake out of your life. He cares. He wants to be there for you. Everyone deserves a second chance. I got one. Don't you think Jake deserves one too? It doesn't sound like he's had it easy. People turn to drugs sometimes when they are unhappy, you know that.”

“Yeah, I know. In my heart, I know. But it still hurts. Just like it hurts to know you were in that position. You have no idea how much that hurts me to know people took advantage of you.”

“Hey, it's part of who I am. I get strength from overcoming my obstacles. I'm not proud of it. I might never even tell anyone else. We all have secrets, Kody. How did you even find out about this?”

I related to him my conversation with the bitch who accosted me in the library and the materials she had given me.

“Sounds like she wanted revenge, she was out to hurt Jake. Maybe he would have come clean eventually on his own, Kode. It's not something you bring up at dinner, you know.”

“I know all that. It's just thinking of Jake with someone else ... I don't even know if this guy was pimping him out. Oh god, I never thought of that.” I closed my eyes against the sterile walls and the medicated smells of the hospital.

“There's only one person who can answer that. I think you need to decide what you really want.”

“I want ... Jake. I just don't want ... all of that.”

“We don't always get to choose. I didn't choose to love you, or Dad. It happened because of who you are, what you mean to me. You love Jake because of who he is and how he makes you feel. He makes you feel like you're everything I already know you are. But you have to decide what you want, what you need.”

“I need to see him. I have to try.”

“Attaboy, Kode. Go get him. He's an awesome guy, and I think he's the one for you.”

It suddenly occurred to me that Charlie was speaking with a lot of authority about someone he didn't even know. “How do you know so much about Jake?”

“What do you mean?”

“You knew his age, I never told you that. He never even told me that. What have you done, Charlie?”

“I just made sure of his intentions, that's all.”

“Charlie! You wait'll I get home. You are so dead!”

“I didn't want you to get hurt again so I called him.”

“Wait a minute! You called him? How did you get the number? I don't even have his number!”

“I called the school. You don't have your boyfriend's number? What kind of boyfriend are you anyways?”


“So after talking to him, I'm convinced Jake would never hurt you. He's not what he might have been once, just like I'm not. I'm your brother now, our Dad's son. Not a runaway who had to do things to get by. Are you going to let Jake be who he has become? Or trap him in his past?”

I hated that he was right. “You had no business calling him. I will kick your ass for that. I have to go now. I need to talk to Jake.”

“You do that. I love you, Kody.”

“I love you too.”

“Send me my pictures of my brother in law.”

“Charlie-” I bit my lower lip.

“Don't worry. I won't breathe a word to Dad.”

* * *

After sitting in the waiting room for what felt like half the night, they finally allowed us in to see Max. All they would tell us was that they were going to keep her overnight for observation. I was relieved they let us go in. Marla was driving me absolutely bonkers between her questions and wondering what was wrong with Max. We rode the elevator, and found Max's semi-private room. How do you get semi-private? It seems it either is or isn't. How do you go in-between on something like privacy?

“Hi, guys,” Max smiled wanly from her bed.

“So what did the doctor say?” Marla asked without preamble. She dropped her things in the visitors chair while I moved to the foot of the bed.

“I haven't been eating very well, mostly because my stomach has felt so weird lately. I threw up a few times in the past few weeks when I tried to have breakfast. So he says I need to watch my diet and basically change my eating habits.”

“That's all?” Marla asked.

“Basically. Apparently, I don't take in enough nutrients for two people,” Max said quietly.

It took a minute to sink in, then my mouth dropped open and Marla squealed, “Max!” Later, she claimed that she didn't, but I know what I heard and it was a squeal.

“So I have a lot of changes to make,” Max continued calmly. “I have to eat right and get some exercise a few times a week for as long as I can. Difficult pregnancies run in my family, so I'll probably be sentenced-I mean prescribed bed rest before the pregnancy is over.” She rolled her eyes.

“So who's the father?” I asked.

* * *

Marla gave me a ride home later on that evening. She didn't question me this time, mostly because she was preoccupied with the big news. Max wasn't telling who the father was, and that drove Marla nuts. Mike always looked like Max's favorite, but did she have a guy somewhere else she was-Wow. I didn't want to think about that too long. I was pretty quiet about the whole revelation. My thoughts kept returning to Jake and what I had to do. Confronting this wasn't going to be easy, but I hoped we'd come out of it stronger-and still together.

I got home and all I could think about was Jake. I stood in my apartment, the clock reporting that it was now a few minutes past midnight. There was a light rap at my door, and Nick poked his head in.

“Kody, where you been, man?”

“Hospital,” I murmured.

“You okay?”

“No, not really.”

“What happened?”

I sprawled tiredly on the couch and Nick took a seat at the other end. “Max got sick at work. She's pregnant.”

“Pregnant? Wow! Is she gonna marry the father?”

“It looks like the Immaculate Conception. She's not telling who the father is-if she even knows.”

“Damn. That's freaky. Glad you're okay though. Did you see Jake? He was looking for you earlier, seemed like it was important.”

“Jake was here?”


“I have to go see him!” I leaped up from the couch and headed for the door.

“Hey! Wait! What's going on?”

Ignoring Nick's calls, I hurried down the stairs and ran up Central Avenue, which was deserted this time of night. My feet felt as though they had wings. My lungs burned as I thought of getting to Jake and falling into his arms-anything to make that happen. I turned onto the brick pathways of the college, and bore down on the sullen brick building that was Mohawk Dormitory. I burst through the door, taking in great gulps of air.

“Hey! What the hell are you doing? You know what time it is?”

I looked up to see Jen behind the RA desk. I was heaving and trying to catch my breath while my body hummed with the nervous energy of oxygen deprivation.

“Is that you Kody?”

“Need ... Jake ... ” I dashed by her and took the stairs, just in case she got to me before the elevator doors closed. I ran up the step two at a time. I slowed down out of necessity by the third floor, and, since I heard no pursuit I figured I was safe. I was practically crawling by the time the stenciled five came into sight on the door to the fifth floor.

I took a moment to steady myself before heading down the hall to his room. That absurd star confronted me once again, and I paused. This was it, all the days of worrying were about to get settled, and maybe-just maybe I could get back to the business of falling in love. I rapped on the door. Nothing happened. I rapped again, more forcefully, and heard a groan and a crash.

“Slug, you've got keys, man,” a groggy voice said. Slug?

Foster opened the door, naked as jaybird, and I feared for my sanity. The more he revealed, the uglier he got!

“Who is it?” A female voice drifted from the darkness as Foster squinted at me.

“It's Jake's boyfriend. What the fuck do you want? I pulled my crank outta my woman to answer the door.”

“I need to see Jake,” I stated.

“Well, you're shit outta luck, Tinkerbell. Jake ain't here.”

“Liar. Let me see.”

“No fucking way! My girl is naked in here!” Foster tried to slam the door shut, but I reached out as quickly as possible and grabbed the only thing I could-his nuts.

“Let me in right now, you stupid pile of monkey shit, before I do the world a favor and make sure you never have children.” I squeezed his balls hard to show I meant business.

“Ow! Leggo of me you faggot! Fawn, cover up!” he groaned. I twisted his nuts. This was not something for which I was proud. In fact, if I hadn't been so desperate to see Jake I might have thrown up at the thought of Foster's nuts in my hand. But I needed Jake.

“Let him go!” Fawn screeched. I fixed her with a glare as I flipped on the light switch and released Foster's claim to mediocrity. Jake's side of the room was empty. His sheets were gone, his computer-everything. Unsteadily, I walked to his closet and placed my trembling hand on the handle. It slid open with a quiet hiss, and empty walls glared at me. What had happened? Where was he?

“Where's Jake?”

“He went home, away from your crazy ass,” Fawn rasped. She had lit a cigarette and was blowing smoke out the window as she spoke. Foster glared at me, but said nothing.

“He went ... home? He said he wanted to get away ... from me?”

Fawn sighed, took a drag on her cigarette, and then stubbed it out. “No, he didn't say that. I just figure anyone your size who grabs another guy's balls has to be crazy.”

“He's a fag. Of course he touched my balls. Fags do that,” Foster mumbled.

“I have to go find him. How long ago did he leave?”

“Fuck if I know.” Foster shrugged. Clearly he was still pissed.

Fawn studied me for a second, then a smile slowly spread across her face that not only would have stopped a clock, it might have made it implode. “You really love him, dontcha?”

I merely nodded, not trusting my tongue to say something about her unlovely face. It was like a Halloween mask come to life.

“He called his mom up and said he needed to leave. He didn't sound like he was planning on coming back. Sorry, Kiddo.”

“I ... I have to go find him.”

“Good luck! You guys would look good together,” she called as I dashed from the room.

I had to find out where Jake lived!

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