Rose Water

Chapter 21

Everyone feels sorry for you… and the only thing you want… is not to have their pity.

There is nothing like floating inside of reality. When you are so happy… you can't even put it into words. When you are so scared that the thought of life makes you want to cry. You are suspended, stuck… between heaven and hell. It is one of the most dangerous, most destructive, most beautiful places to be. The air is sweat and blood. The ground is pain. There is nothing in front of you… and nothing behind.

The sky is dark. Death lives in this place. Life lives in this place. I live in this place. Membership is exclusive. You have to die again… and again… and again, just to earn the right… to live.

I am leaving. The lights are dimming. Membership… revoked.

"I don't want to get up," I say to Brian. His hand is resting on my back. I know he is awake. I know he hears me. "If I get up it may all just be a dream, you may not be here. You may not be real," I finish. His hand falls away from my back and I feel it as it touches the side of my face. I look up at him, resting my chin on his chest.

"I'm here," he says. I don't cry. The time for tears has come and gone. "Come on, lets get cleaned up," he says, nicely, softly, gently. Fragile.

Break me into pieces and shatter the vessel that used to house my soul.

I move off of him and he stands up, fully clothed, leather jacket thrown to the side. He offers me his hand and I slide my hand inside of his. We walk into the bathroom together, clothes coming off slowly, piece by piece.

Hesitation, desire, pity, love, trust, humiliation and determination are sucking at the air that moves around us.

He reaches into the shower, turning the water on. The heat engulfs the bathroom and I feel something like sadness, but not as heavy.

He pulls me into the shower behind him. His hands grip the soap, working up the lather. "Brian, what happens next?" I ask softly.

"You're writing the book, anything you want," he tells me. We finish washing each other. He steps out of the shower, leaving me alone. Yesterday I would have fallen to the floor, dropped down and prayed for the tiles to tell me what to do. I see Brian out of the corner of my eye. I see him drying off. I see him slipping back into the clothes he wore here.

Map out my destiny. Burn any traces of my presence in the past. My end has no beginning.

Brian walks out of the bathroom. I stay where I am, quietly letting the water wash over me. I take a deep breath and look at the tiles. I look ahead of me. I look into me. I turn off the water and for a brief moment I stand there, water dripping off of me as I put my thoughts in order.

The earth freezes. The trees go bare. The air is hot and dry. The rain comes down in torrents. Life... begins again.

"I'm not strong enough," I say to Daphne as she reaches the first branch of the giant tree, climbing farther and farther away. "I'm going to fall."

"No you're not. All you gotta do is pull yourself up," Daphne tells me. I reach for the second branch of the tree and pull with all of my might. My body lifts off the ground and I realize I can do anything. I am the bravest boy in the world.

I was only eight.

Walk in the woods with me. No one will hear us, no one will see.

"My dad loves the spring," I say. I get up and walk a foot away before pausing, my eyes trained on the lake in front of us. "He used to say that in the spring, everything is beginning. Everything is new. The colors, the air, the expectations, it's all… fresh. He said that the spring… gave you a whole new chance, to start over."

"Yeah," Brian says from his spot behind me. I can tell he is rolling his eyes. I can hear it in his voice. I move away from him and walk out to the edge of the water. I look down into the darkened depths.

Fish and ducks are living their lives here, silently going through the motions of another day. I look up into the sun and then back down at the water.

"It would be so easy wouldn't it? To just accidentally fall in. You wouldn't have to deal with anyone or anybody. It really may be the best way to go. I mean, why make everyone worry about you?" Brian says as he comes up behind me. I know what he is doing. I hear him loud and clear.

"But," he says as he moves to wrap his arms around me. "The Justin that I know, he wouldn't give up so easily." He kisses the side of my head and lets his arms slip from around my waist.

My breath catches as Brian grabs my hand and turns me around, pulling me into him for a heated kiss. He runs his hands through my hair and I deepen the kiss, needing the contact. "I want to go home. I want you to stay," I say as my lips rest against his.

"I know. Who wouldn't want to go home with me?" He asks and I laugh. He kisses me one last time before pulling me back toward the clinic. He has to go. I have to cope.

Give me directions. I'll meet you in the middle on my way back home.

I walk with Brian to his car, the wet pavement making our movements slow and calculated. "Will you call me?" I ask.

"Yeah," he says as we reach the car and he unlocks the door. He throws his jacket inside and it lands on the seat with a soft thud, the sound of leather on leather. He stands up straight and pulls me in; close enough so that we are almost one. Are we one? Or, are we just… absolute?

I lift myself up on my toes, just slightly and let my lips meet and melt into his. He parts his mouth and I shiver as I feel his tongue snake into my mouth and his cock grow hard against my leg. "Mmm," I moan as the kiss takes me home and brings me back again.

He slowly breaks the kiss and moves his mouth away from mine. I wait for him to give me a parting speech, some words of wisdom to help me along the way. Instead he smiles, bites his bottom lip and leans in close, so close our foreheads are touching.

I watch him as his lips part and I cannot stop the smile from spreading through me. I steady myself for his knowledge, his insight. "I want to fuck you," Brian says. His hands want to roam and explore, but we both know that despite the appearance to the contrary, we are not alone in this parking lot.

"I know," I say as our lips fall together again. "Later?"

"Later," he says as he backs away from me, biting his lower lip. He gets into his car and pulls out of the parking space. As I stand there watching him go I smile and shiver.

I have to move.


And they lived happily ever after. No one tells you that sometimes, the fairytale doesn't work that way.

I press the coffee cup to my lips and cautiously take in the heated liquid. "I told you from the beginning that Craig Taylor was going to be nothing but trouble, but you wouldn't listen to me. You were always so stubborn," my mother says. She never liked Craig, never. I should have listened to her.

"I know," I say. I keep my eyes on the trees across the street. I don't want to look at her. Right now the scenery outside this kitchen window is my only salvation. "I know," I repeat, more to myself than to her.

"We'll at least the bastard has to pay," she reasons. I smile as I think about the look on his face that day in the lawyer's office. It was priceless. "Jennifer, where is Justin? I have been here for a whole day and a half and I have not seen one hair on the boys head."

I knew she would ask about him. What do I do? What do I say?

The truth shall set you free, but a lie, a lie… can keep you loved.

"He, he is in rehab," I say. My right hand flutters to my neck, twisting the pearls that hang there, begging them to help me. My left hand holds on tightly to the coffee mug. Stay cool, stay calm.

"Oh, my God, what for, is it drugs dear?" She asks me. I suppress a laugh. Drugs, I wish. If only it were that easy.

"No, its not drugs mother," I say. Tell her, tell her quick and get it over with. "He is what they call, a cutter."

I can feel her eyes as they burn into my back, trying to understand. "What does that mean dear? I have no idea what you are talking about," she tells me as she takes a sip of her tea. I put my mug down, closing my eyes as the porcelain makes contact with the counter. I leave the window, my portal into serenity, and sit down at the table, across from her.

"Mom, Justin cuts himself, mostly with razors," I tell her. Her mouth drops open as I continue to talk, to tell her everything I know, which admittedly, is not a lot.

"Where is he?" She asks me as she stands up. "Where is he? I want to see him." She moves out of the kitchen and into the foyer. "How long has he been there?" She pauses at the front door when she realizes that I am not following her, or answering her.

Suddenly, I am five years old with paint on my hands and a stain on the carpet. "I don't know," I mumble, hands down and heart beating fast. My mother turns around to face me. She is waiting for me to continue. I have nothing left to say.

"Well," my mom says. She wants answers and she wants them, now. My hands find their way to my neck, the collar of my shirt, the beads around my neck. I want to breathe, my lungs won't let me.

Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea, let's… go to press.

"Justin doesn't live here anymore," Molly says as she walks down the stairs. She is not afraid of her grandmother, she never has been and she has never needed to be. There was never a question that Justin was my mother's favorite. To her Molly was merely the back up table setting. She was to be appreciated and treated kindly, but never touched.

"Do you really want to have another baby?" I look at my mother, my eyes a mixture of fear, restraint and anger. "He cheats on you. Everyone knows it. I know it. You know it. All you have to do… is let yourself believe it."

"He said he isn't, and I believe him," I say and the words sound like a lie, even to me. My mother comes closer to me, placing her hands on my face and pulling me close. She used to do the same thing when I was little. When she wanted me to focus, really focus, she held my head and made me listen, made me see, but I am older now and my vision… is not what it used to be.

"Why are you trying so hard, to fix something that is beyond repair?"

"Is that true Jen? Jennifer, do you hear me, is it true?" My mom does not trust Molly's explanation for her brother's absence. She waits for me to confirm or deny and suddenly I don't have the energy to do either one.

"It's true, it really is," Molly says, not waiting for my brain to engage. My mom lets go of the door handle and closes the gap between us. She stops at the bottom of the stairs, her attention divided between me and Molly.

"Well, if he hasn't been staying here, where has he been staying?" She asks. Molly takes two steps down, her body level with my mothers.

"He, he lives with a man named Brian Kinney," I say.

"It's his boyfriend," Molly says with a smile as she crosses her arms over her chest. My mother's head turns to Molly. I cannot tell what she is thinking, and that scares me. I cut my eyes at Molly and gently shake my head.

"His boyfriend, are you telling me that my grandson is living with another man, and that they are engaged in a sexual relationship?" She asks. Her head is facing Molly, but her words are directed at me.

"Yup," Molly says with a smile on her face. "And he is very cute." Molly sits down on the bottom step, one leg crossed over the other. I cannot help but to smile, there is no denying that Brian is cute.

"Who is this Brian? I want to see him, and I want to see him now." I am surprised. I knew she would be a lot of things, but being in a hurry to see Brian is not one of them.


Wake up and say hello to the first day of your life. Meet it head on… or die trying.

"Freddy, would you please stop doing that?" I ask. Freddy smiles at me and I feel my stomach twist into a knot. I have to meet with Gerri in an hour.

"Stop doing what?" He asks. He is sitting in his bed, directly across from me and staring. His eyes are burning into me.

"Stop staring at me," I say. He stops and gets up. I let my eyes shift from my paper to his feet as they make their way across the room. I feel the bed shift and look over. Freddy is sitting on my bed, next to me, on my bed. Die Freddy Die.

"What are you drawing?" Freddy asks. I raise my head up and give him my full attention. He always wants to know what I am doing.

"Nothing," I say sharply. He chuckles and snatches the sketchpad from my hands. "Fuck, give that back." Freddy jumps up and holds me back with one arm. I curse his fuller height and more ample muscle mass as I try with desperation to retrieve my book from between his fingers.

One quick movement is all it takes and I suddenly feel Freddy's lips on mine. I don't let myself think after the initial touch. I feel Freddy's hand move to grip the back of my neck and the paper from my sketchpad tickles me, threatening to tell my secrets.

Stop the press. We need to print a retraction.


I pull my car up to the curb and step out. My jacket is in my hand and the sun is rising over my building. I smile at the thought. I reach the door and as I reach for the handle I hear a voice. "Hey, Brian," I hear. I turn around and come face to face with Molly.

"Molly, what are you doing here?" I ask. She doesn't answer me right away, she just points in the direction of the curb. I see Jennifer and an older woman, who is still very pretty, getting out of their car. "What the fuck is going on?"

"My grandma was asking about Justin. My mom didn't have any answers, so she asked to see you," she says to me.

"Mr. Kinney," the older woman says. "I am Susanna Baker and I understand that you are the one with information about my grandson," she says. I can just imagine how she found out who I was and where I live. I look over at Molly, a smirk firmly on my face.

"Look, Mrs. Baker, Justin doesn't want people to know where he is. When he gets back I'll have him call you," I say as I open the main door to the building.

"Please, call me Susanna, and that, Mr. Kinney is simply not good enough," she says as she pushes past me. She waits in the lobby to see who is winning the game. I hold my hand up, letting Jennifer and Molly know that they may as well come in too. Round one belongs to you Susanna.

Pay attention… the game's in check.

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