Here Without You: Chapter 1: In the Beginning

By Uriel

 


Here Without You : My own story…

You know, every vampire has their own story about how they were turned. Some out of love, some out of hate and some don’t even know what has happened to them. There are two classes in my own oppinion. You either love your sire, or hate them for what they’ve done to you. I was one of the lucky ones I think. For the short time my sire was with me, I feel blessed to have known him. I’ll never again be alone as long as his memory is with me.

Comicality gave me a unique oportunity in making me his archivist. The collection of scriptures being added define some very important events and now my own story is forever tied to them in a special way. I proudly add my story, and the memories of someone I loved more than life itself, and will until the day I no longer exist on this plane. This story is a tribute to him, and a thanks to Comicality for the oportunity to imortalize his memory. I died for him, I lived for him and I continue to exist… Because of him.


 

My mind was completely out of control. One moment I was watching the waves under the moonlight and the next, the memories of people I once considered friends and even family, turning me away like I was a piece of trash. Their voices totally consumed my every thought as echoes of the words ‘Fag’ and ‘Fairy’ stabbed at me like ice cold blades from the lips of the people I had grown to love and care for. My own fault really. I mean I should have known that there would be no way they could accept. That when they appeared to stand at my side when I told them the truth, they were choking back the prejudice that was screaming to be heard. I was so blind to the truth. Probably because I wanted them to accept me for who I was. I mean, was it really to high a price to pay? Hide from everyone, including myself just to fit in. Hell, I’ve been hiding it since I was about 13. At 20 you would think it would be easier to accept the fact that to be happy, to keep your friends, to be allowed to love and be loved; meant you either have to fake being normal and plan to just ‘never find the right girl’ or really bite down on the stick and find some girl you could possibly spend the rest of your life tolerating. Either way you grow old, alone and miserable. The last option I had to choose from seemed like the right one at the time. Just be honest. The people I love will understand, right?. Hell, I’ve been there for everyone in my life when they needed me. This doesn’t change who I am. Christ, it’s not like I planned on wearing a dress from now on and start playing YMCA 24/7 while doing my nails. If I had never told them, they would have never known, I was still the same person. One week after my revelation with the tight group I considered my extended family. I felt great. The weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I had nothing to hide. I could finally be me. So I thought…

It didn’t take long to start feeling the tension that was starting to build. Things that once were normal I either just didn’t fit in with anymore or was a sudden taboo. Joking around with the guys one day, my best friend called me a fag. Don’t get me wrong, in joking we have all called each other that with no hidden meaning or with any other intention aside of just playful banter. But the way it came out was just; hurtful I guess. I know it showed in my face as my smile was replaced suddenly with a strained fake one. “I’m just clownin, don’t be such a girl about it.” He continued; making it feel as though he was rubbing salt in the wound. Like I said, it really wasn’t what was said, just the tone of it. Almost as if he meant it to hurt but didn’t want to stand behind his words. You know, be a man and just say what you mean instead of say it and play it off like you were joking. I went back to my little apartment that night knowing I had made a mistake. What the hell was I thinking? There was a reason I was afraid to come out. It was a foolish dream to think it would be without a price.

I went to work the next day just feeling down about everything and I guess it showed. My co-workers consisted of mostly guys, two of them in the group were also ‘In the know’ so to speak. For the most part I guess it was a normal day but every time my friends laughed, it was almost as if they were laughing at jokes I wasn’t intended to hear. I just figured I was reading too deeply into it until lunchtime rolled around. I took a deep breath, convinced myself it was all in my head and walked over to the group to see if they were up to grabbing a pizza or something. The second I rounded the corner they all shushed each other and suddenly all eyes were on me.

“Hey Guys.” I said weakly trying to read their expressions noting that no one would look directly at me. “Wanna go grab a pizza or something?”

The entire group shot glances at each other before Jeremy, a friend of 7 years looked me in the eye and said; “Nah dude, we’re plannin on goin back to Hooters for lunch.” He said as they all began to snicker. “No place YOU would want to go.”

“That’s how it is, huh?” I stiffened my back and said through clenched teeth as my eyes teared up.

“Yup.” He simply replied as if it were a joke and the pack stood and followed him past me and toward the door.

I just stood there stunned and watched as they whispered and snickered on their way out. My stomach felt as if I could throw up at any moment and a cold chill ran right up my spine. Jeremy has been my friend for as long as I knew I was gay. Of everyone in my life, I never would have pegged him as being prejudice or ever turning on someone like this. Hell, he was my best friend, or so I thought he was. I watched from the vending machines as my so called ‘friends’ jumped in their cars and left the lot like we all used to. Something I was now banned from being a part of. Even then, I still hoped this was some form of an adjustment period or something. “They need time. Once they realize I haven’t changed things will go back to being normal.” I said to my stale tuna sandwich as I unwrapped it and went back to my work bench to have lunch alone.

Things progressively got worse from that day on. Little notes were left at my work station with words like “FAG” and other fairly nasty little slang words on them. I put up with it for a few days hoping it would let up. Simply laughed it off and let them have their fun at my expense. That lasted until just after work two days later. The group still had nothing to do with me but, there were no insulting little notes in my work area, no loud whispers that were intended for me to overhear. I figured I was right, it was getting old. Hell I even felt a little better at the end of the day when I went to punch out, until I walked out into the parking lot and saw Jeremy with a can of spray paint and a couple of co-workers watching as he began to spray a big “F” on the passenger side of my car.

“You gonna sign your little note this time?” I asked as all three jumped not realizing I had walked up to the group.

“I… Um…” Jeremy started to reply as he foolishly tried to hide the can behind his back.

“Thought so.” I snapped as I walked over and got right in his face. “Why don’t you try again when you can come up with something better than a first grader prank.” I said as I could feel my hands begin to shake from the adrenaline rush that I knew meant I was ready for a fight. “I have an idea.” I continued as I tossed my backpack on the hood of my car. “Instead of taking it out on my car, why don’t you take it out on something that WILL defend itself.” I couldn’t even believe the words that were coming out of my mouth. I hate fighting. Always have, always will.

Jeremy looked like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. In that one brief moment I could see the friend I once knew. He was doing this to fit in with the REAL guys. That’s what this is all about. He could take me in a fight. We both knew it. But he took a step back and nervously waved to his new buddies to follow. “Forget it, you’re not worth my time.” He spit out as he dropped the spray can on the ground and backed away.

I didn’t break my stare on him until he and his buddies pulled out of the parking lot. Once they were gone I picked up the spray can and read it. “Wood stain.” I said out loud as I nodded my head and grabbed a rag out of the trunk to begin wiping it off. “At least he wasn’t really trying to destroy the car.” I huffed as I thought of a few other words I would have liked to paint on their cars. With the stain wiped off of the car I looked back at the building and pulled out a cigarette and lit it. ‘I can’t stay here.’ I thought to myself.

That was the day I decided to pack up and move here to Chicago. I quit my job and said my goodbyes to anyone who didn’t seem too bothered by my abnormality. Not one person seemed disappointed. As if I had betrayed them or something. I was right about Jeremy. He had a choice to make and that last day at work let me know loud and clear what he had decided. I did call him intending to give him directions to hell, but instead got an apology. It was a shallow one, and meant very little at that point, but it gave me somewhat of a closure I guess. I let him off the hook and let him know he would never see me again before simply saying goodbye and hanging up. He tried to call my cell phone a couple of times after I moved, but to him and the rest of what I thought were friends; I died the day I told them I was gay. I would never be able to be me again. So in my new home, I started a new life. That was the plan. But I was so lonely, homesick and just plain missed my old life. Not that it could ever be normal again. Still those memories are too loud to drown out. Good times of the past, and how it all ended. The only thing that feels like home here is sitting on the beach and watching the water. Granted it’s not the ocean, but it is still just as relaxing as it was when I was a kid.

Tonight was no different than the rest. The silence broken only by the sounds of people having fun in the distance and my occasional sniffle. Well that is until I got this eerie feeling; as if I was being watched. You know that feeling, like you can actually feel the stare. It’s like a sixth sense or something. I turned my head quickly and just barely caught the glimpse of what appeared to be a kid ducking behind a trash bin on the beach. Curiosity took over so I stood up and said just loud enough for him to hear; “Busted, C’mon out.” Just in time to be confronted with something that caught me completely off guard.

The kid must have been about 9 or 10. His clothes were dirty and looked a little more beaten than you would expect, even from the hardcore skaters I’ve seen in the area. His blond hair looked like it hadn’t seen a brush in a good long time and was a little shaggy and matted. The worst of it was his eyes. This boy wasn’t even human, at least not any more. His eyes glowed a crimson red through the contacts he wore to try to hide them. He stood in that familiar pose. You know the one, like a wild animal getting ready to attack. He even had a smirk on his face, as if I had just rung the dinner bell. No free lunch here tonight little guy…

“I wouldn’t if I were you.” I simply said as he took a tentative step closer.

“Then it’s good you aren’t me.” He said with that telltale lisp that clearly let you know his fangs had already extended for the feeding.

“No, seriously.” I replied as I held my right hand out so he could see the mark that was on it.

He squinted his eyes and took another step closer before kicking the sand and shouting “Aw CRAP!!! Figures…. Damn it!” He wailed as he kicked the trash bin he was hiding behind a few minutes ago. “All the people who come here every damn night and I gotta find one that’s protected.” He said as he paced back and forth in a huff. The red glow of his eyes fading but he was still really upset.

“Sorry, My mom used to volunteer her time in safe houses. My mark was her payment.” I said as I thought back to the times when I used to help her with the younger vampires.

“How the hell did she do that? The elders don’t repay humans who help to hide the hunted. If anything, they would have had her killed.” He said with a childish sarcasm that clearly told me it didn’t matter. It was only fair. I mean I had ruined his night after all.

“It’s a long story, let’s just say she helped someone who later found himself in a position to repay the favor.” I said as he finally calmed and turned to watch some guy and his girlfriend further down the beach arguing.

“Ah.” He replied as he looked down the beach past me and then back in the other direction just in time to see the guy slap his girlfriend. “You were raised around us?” He asked as he looked back at me.

“Pretty much, I haven’t seen any of you since I was like 9 but, yeah.” I replied as he snapped his gaze back in the direction of the couple as the guy wandered off the beach alone. “Then you won’t mind if we continue this discussion later? I’m kinda runnin on empty here.” He said as he looked back at me with a grin. “That and some people have to be taught not to hit girls.”

“Go ahead.” I replied shaking my head in disbelief that I could actually find humor in the way he just announced that he was going to kill someone. “Wouldn’t want to talk to ya if yur gonna be all blood crazed and stuff.” I said earning a childish giggle from the boy.

“You’ll be here for a while, right?” He asked as he started to walk backward in the direction of his intended prey.

“Yeah, I don’t feel like going home yet.” I said as I plopped back down in the sand.

“Cool, I’ll be back in a few then. Ok?” He said as he turned and picked up his pace to begin the hunt.

“Ill be right here.” I answered as I watched him break out in a run and disappear in the shadows. I turned my attention back to the water and thought to myself ‘He won’t be back.’ and decided that was the case a couple of hours later when I finally gave up waiting and got up to leave.

“You’re not leavin are ya?” Shouted a familiar voice that sounded a bit out of breath.

“Yeah. I have to get up at a half decent time tomorrow. I’m new in town and haven’t found a job yet.” I answered as I bent back down to pick up the backpack I had brought out with me.

“Aw, that sucks.” He replied looking as if he was really disappointed. “I woulda been back earlier but I had to go clean up. You know…” He got out before I finished his sentence.

“He was a fighter?”

“Hehehe, yeah. It’s weird hearing a comment like that come from human lips.” He replied with a smile. “Did you drive here?” He asked as I stood back up and brushed the sand off of my shorts.

“Yeah, my car’s parked down the road. Really not much for parking this far away from the pier.” I answered as he turned and looked toward the street.

“I’ll walk you to it.” He said with a smile. “Shouldn’t walk alone around here. Never know who you might run into.” He finished with a giggle.

“Or what.” I said as I playfully pushed him away and smiled. “Thanks, I’d appreciate the company.”

“I kinda figured you might.” He said as I shot him a questioning look. “I’ve been watching you for a few nights now. I kinda know you were hopin you’d meet someone. That’s part of the reason why I thought you’d be a good donor. I mean you don’t know anyone out here yet.”

“That’ll take some getting used to again.” I said rolling my eyes as we made it to the sidewalk.

“What will?” He asked tilting his head.

“Being read like that again. Like I said, I haven’t seen any of your kind since I was smaller than you.” I answered as we began to walk in the direction of the street I left my car on.

“Andy.” he said breaking the silence that had started to develop as we walked.

“Huh?”

“You were wondering what my name is. It’s Andy.” He said with a grin. “Sorry I wasn’t trying to listen but that came through pretty clear. Sorry, I’ll try harder to block it out.”

“No prob. I’m Jon by the way.” I answered as he began to giggle. “What?”

“I know. With what you’ve had running through your mind the past couple nights out there, I know a lot about you already.” He answered as we turned the corner and my car came into view. “I kinda know bein alone has got you at the end of your rope, kinda like me.” He said as we reached the car and leaned up against it.

“You’re alone? I thought out on the street you guys kept to small groups.” I said looking at him with a little surprise. “Especially ones turned as young as you were.”

“Not all, I mean I used to stay with a small group on the other side of town.” He replied looking at his feet. “They left the area about a year ago. I like it here so, I stayed behind.”

“You’ve been alone for a year?”

“About that. But it’s not like I’m alone really. There are plenty of us around if you know where to look.” He replied as he turned his head and looked down the empty street. “I should take off. You’re tired and didn’t exactly come out here looking for conversation.”

“Oh please.” I replied with a laugh. “I’ve been totally alone for days now.” I said as he shrugged his shoulders. “I mean unless you got something else goin on, I can stick around for a while.” I answered as I ruffled his hair and felt just how dirty it really was.

“Well I wasn’t plannin on runnin the streets. I really only come out when I have to. Clubs some nights, sometimes a party or sumthin.” He said as he tried to flatten his hair back out with his hands. “It’s really boring most of the time.”

I simply nodded my head and pulled my keys out of my pocket. “Tell ya what. I’m starving.” I said as I turned and looked at his angelic, mud streaked face. “Why not come with me. I really should eat something and if you want, you can use my shower.”

“Do I look that bad?” He asked looking at his hands.

“You look worse.” I replied with a smile. “Kinda sucks really.” I said as I walked around to the drivers side of the car and unlocked it. “My first friend out here, and I don’t really know what you look like.” I said getting him to smile. “You in?”

“Why not.” He replied as I hopped in and unlocked the passengers side door. “If you knew how long it’s been since I’ve had a real shower you’d probably tie me to the hood instead of letting me get in.”

“When we get home, I’ll throw your clothes in the washer.” I said as I turned the key and brought the car to life. “I’ve got some stuff you can throw on for tonight.”

Andy shut the door and stared at the dashboard with a thoughtful smile. “Home.” He half whispered. “I don’t wanna be any trouble.”

“Oh please.” I said as I pulled out onto the street. “You were plannin on making me your dinner. You’ve already been trouble.” I got out as I noticed his gaze shoot toward the floorboard. “I’m just kidding you man, you are more than welcomed in my home.” I added with a smile.

“Inviting a vampire into your home.” Andy said in a fake Transylvanian accent. “Of course you know the dangers of that action.” He managed to get out before a giggle escaped him and a smile returned.

“That’s a bloody myth.” I said with a laugh. “Just in case, I’ll pick up some garlic, holy water and a crucifix from the all night vampire repellent store. That’ll fix ya!” I replied as we pulled out onto the main road.


“Home sweet home.” I said as we both got out of the car. “If you wanna stay for a while, I have a plan.” I rambled half in thought as I unlocked the door to my basement apartment of the huge 4 story brick building.

 

“Stay for a while?” Andy asked in surprise. “I thought you were throwin me out before sunrise.”

“You’re free to leave anytime you want.” I said as I flipped on the kitchen lights. “But if you’d like, I have an extra bedroom you can use.”

“Nah, that’s ok.” Andy said as he looked at the wide open kitchen and living area. “It’s a pain in the butt to sunproof a room.”

“Not this one.” I said with a smile as I walked across the room and opened a door off the kitchen. “Check it out.”

Andy scowled as he walked into the small room containing nothing but a dresser, futon, computer and a small radio. “No windows?” He said with a grin. “You sure about this?”

“Yup. I’ll hang a blanket over the inside of the door to keep any sunlight from leaking in. It’ll be cool.” I said as I went into the room’s closet and pulled out a towel and facecloth. “Come on, I’ll show you where that shower is.” I said with a laugh as I as he raised his arm, took a long sniff and made a huge production about how bad he smelled.

“Can I put my stuff in here?” He asked as he patted his pockets. “This way we can wash these.”

“Or burn them.” I said as I got my first real look at his clothing in a lit room. “Does any of that stuff actually fit you?”

“You wear what you can.” He replied as he started emptying his pockets out onto the nightstand near the futon. “I don’t have much money normally so buying clothes isn’t really an option.”

“We’ll see what we can do with these then.” I replied as I watched him make sure his pockets were empty. “This way.” I waved as I led him to the bathroom. “You do remember how to use a shower, right?” I asked with a grin.

“No, could you show me.” Andy said with a whine as he pulled his shirt over his head and let it plop onto the floor.

“You’re joking, right.”

“Duh!” He shot out as he pried his sneakers off to display the nastiest, hole ridden pair of socks I had ever seen. “It’s been a long time but I have gotten to use one now and then.”

‘Cool.” I replied as I turned toward the door. “I’ll go fix up your room and grab myself something to eat.” I said as I went to close the door. “I’ll dig out something for you to throw on when you get out. Just toss this stuff outside the door before you get in so I can let the washer work on them for a while.”

“Ok.” He replied as I closed the door.

It didn’t take long to find a nice thick blanket to drape over the door frame to his room. I tied it back so he could go in and out without trouble at night. Just as I was about to return to the bathroom, the items he placed on the nightstand attracted my attention. A couple of crumpled up one dollar bills, some loose change, a dirty red rabbit’s foot keychain with one single padlock key on it, a small pocket knife and a wallet. I was tempted to peek into his wallet, but decided that would just be wrong and slowly made my way to collect his clothes.

“You coulda looked in it if you wanted.” Andy shouted through the door causing me to freeze in my steps. “Thanks though… You know… for kinda respectin my stuff.” He shouted over the running water.

“You’re too much.” I said as I picked up the pile and remembered my mind was like an open book to him. “You need anything?” I shouted back a little louder.

“No thanks. This feels Awesome!” He shouted giving me a smile.

“Cool!” I said as I turned for the laundry room. “Take your time. I’ve never gotten that water heater to run out, and I love a long shower.”

“Sweet! Thanks Jon!” He shouted back as I grabbed the laundry soap and went down the hall to our building’s small laundry room.

After double checking his pockets to make sure they were empty, I added the detergent and dropped the filthy pile into the washer and started it up. “May have to run them through twice.” I said out loud, thankful that no one was up late doing any other laundry.

About half an hour later, I had eaten and started the washer for a second time when a spotless Andy came out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist.

“Oh my god that felt good.” He said as he plopped down in a chair at the table with me. “I owe you big.”

“You owe me nothing.” I said with a smile as I scooped some coffee ice cream into a bowl for myself. “I’m happy to see a smile on your face.” I said before starting to laugh. “Hell, I’m happy to be able to see your face.”

“Funny.” Andy shot back with a mock pout expression on his face. “So, you have anything that I can throw on?” He asked as he stood back up and motioned toward his towel. “Unless you’d rather I run around here naked.”

“Weirdo.” I said with a laugh as I pointed to the other side of the apartment toward my bedroom. “In the dresser in there. You should be able to find a pair of shorts and a t-shirt that you can throw on.”

“Cool, be right back.” Andy said with a smile as he jogged off into my bedroom emerging about 10 minutes later wearing a pair of blue jogging shorts that reached well beyond mid calf on him and a t-shirt that rode to just about his knees. “How do I look?” He asked with a smile.

“Like a kid that got loose in his father’s closet.” I said with a laugh. “Want some of this?” I asked as I slid a spoon in his direction.

“Ice cream?” He questioned as he sat down. “I can’t eat much or else it’ll make me sick.”

“I know that.” I said with a smile. “That’s why I gave you a spoon and not a whole bowl, have some of mine.”

“Cool!” Andy said as he grabbed up the spoon and scooped a small amount out of my bowl and began to take small licks from it. “This is the best.” He said with a huge smile as he treated that tiny amount of ice cream like it was a full desert. “I can’t even remember the last time I tasted anything like this.”

“I bet.” I said as I took another spoonful for myself. “I remember when I was really little, my mom had taken in a halflife younger than you. I guess his mother had found him in the street after some selfish bastard fed on him and left him to die in the morning sun. My Mom was teaching his mom how to care for him.” I said as I sat back in my chair. “I used to slip him little tastes of my deserts once in a while.”

“Weird.” Andy said as he licked his spoon clean and set it back on the table with a satisfied smile. “How could your Mom let you be around us, new blood halflives especially.”

“Have you ever been in a safe house?” I asked through a yawn. “There was very little danger really.”

“I guess, but have one of them go one day too long without feeding…” Andy got out before I cut him off.

“And they would be tangling with my mother.” I said with a laugh. “Human or not, she could be pretty forceful. Besides, she had lots of friends in darkness. We were watched out for.”

“What made her want to help us? Or you for that matter?” He asked resting his elbows on the table.

“My father was turned when I was a baby.” I replied getting up from my seat to put the bowl in the sink. “He broke the rules and had us looked after. Eventually, my mom got to know some of his friends and realized that there were so many that really needed help.”

“She did it on her own?” Andy asked as he began to yawn.

“In the beginning, yeah. But that was long before I could remember. My first memories were inside the safe house she had established with a group of adult humans and a handful of the local vampires who had been helped by them in the past.” I answered as I looked at the clock. “You should probably turn in soon.” I said as I looked out the window. “Sun’s gonna be up soon.”

“Yeah.” Andy replied as I looked over and could literally see the color draining from his face. “Thanks Jon.”

“Don’t mention it.” I said as I locked the front door and turned out the lights. “If I’m not here when you wake up, don’t panic. Ok? I have a few things I have to do tomorrow during the day but I should be home before sunset.” I said as I ruffled his hair and ushered him into his bedroom. “You won’t be disturbed in here.” I said watching him lie down on the futon with a weary smile as I untied the blanket and let it drape over the doorway. “Night Kidoe.” I said before closing the door and heading to bed myself after transferring Andy’s clothes into the dryer.


I rolled over, looked at the alarm clock and groaned. “2:30?” I whined as I slowly sat up and put my feet on the floor. “I gotta stop sleeping so late.” I mumbled as I wandered over to the window and opened the blinds to let the sun in. “Hmmm… those clothes are still in the dryer.” I said as I stretched and yawned on my way to the laundry room. Scooping the clothes out of the dryer in a heap, I made my way back into the living room and began to fold the tattered material.

 

“These are horrible.” I said as I held out the socks, which looked just as nasty as they did before I washed them. “He can’t keep wearing this stuff.” I mumbled out loud as I neatly piled his clothes on the couch, making note of all the sizes before making my way to the kitchen to start some coffee. “Let me see. I have to go to the mall for a job interview at 4, while I’m there maybe I’ll pick up a couple of things for him.” I thought out loud as I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and wrote a note to Andy, just in case I got back after dark.

About 4 hours later just as the sun was disappearing behind the surrounding buildings, I returned home with bags of stuff from the mall. I may have gotten a little carried away but I figured it must have been just as nice for him as it was for me to have found a friend. Even if it was only for a little while. I mean hell, I’ve only been totally alone for a couple of weeks. It’s been a year or more for him. It won’t hurt to at least get him hooked up with a few things he couldn’t afford to get on his own. What’s the point of having any money if you can’t share it with someone? Right?

After I got the bags all inside, I put a pot of coffee on and had just sat down when Andy’s bedroom door cracked open. “It’s safe.” I said knowing he was checking for sunlight and couldn’t tell with the lights on in the kitchen.

“Thanks.” He said as he swung the door open and sleepily stumbled to the table and sat down. “Sometimes I wake up just before it sets. Gotta be careful,” He said with a smile. “So, hows your day been so far?”

“Short and kinda not productive.” I said with a shrug. “I did pick you up a couple of things while I was out. Hope you don’t mind.”

“You didn’t have to do that.” He said through a yawn.

“No, I didn’t. But it was fun.” I said as I reached behind myself and grabbed one of the bags. “Lemme see.” I said as I started removing it’s contents and putting them on the table. “Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, hair brush… I got ya a small bag of hard candies. Something sweet is nice now and then.” I said with a smile as I watched the amazed look on he face turn into a thoughtful smile. “This one has socks, underwear and a few shirts.” I added as I dragged over the last couple of bags. “A couple of pairs of jeans, some sweat pants, shorts and a pair of new sneakers. I hope they all fit.”

Andy stared at the bags with his mouth open. At first I thought he was going to give me an argument about how much stuff I had bought, but was surprised to see a single tear work it’s way down his cheek. “All this? For me?” He asked looking back in my direction. “Why?”

I reached over and straightened his hair out a little before I stood up and grabbed a coffee mug out of the cabinet and held one in his direction to offer him one, which he shook his head no to. “Cause I wanted to.” I said as I put the second cup back in the cabinet, poured myself a coffee and sat back down. “No real reason behind it. I just thought it would be cool to have some new stuff.” I said as I took a sip from my cup. “Besides, I had fun.” I added as I watched him slowly take each article of clothing out of the bags one at a time, smiling and placing them on the table like he had just found a treasure. “It was worth it to see that smile again.”

“I don’t know what to say. These are awesome.” He said as he opened the shoe box and held the sole of one of the sneakers to his foot. “Can I go get dressed?” He asked with a new sparkle in his eyes.

“Yeah, I’m curious to see how close I got.” I replied as he scooped up the bags and almost ran into the bedroom emerging less than a minute later looking like a brand new person with a renewed smile. “Wow!” I said in surprise. “I could even go out in public with you lookin like that dude.”

Andy did a full turn before sitting back down with his new sneakers in his lap. As he began carefully lacing them, he sniffled. “Thanks. It’s been so long since I’ve had real clothes. I just wish you didn’t spend so much.”

“Are you kidding?” I asked with a smile. “It’s worth it. You look awesome.”

“That’s what I mean. If you had any idea how long it’s been, I mean since I’ve worn anything that was new and not…” He said before I cut him off.

“Enjoy them. That’s all.” I said getting a teary smile from him. “Looks like I got the sizes right at least.”

“Oh yeah.” He said as he wiped his eyes and got back to his laces. “You measure me in my sleep or something?”

“Nah, I just thought what you were wearing was about two sizes too small, so I aimed about three sizes bigger than what you had.” I said with a grin. “Looks about right, maybe a little big.”

“No way, this stuff is comfortable.” he replied as he put the first sneaker on and tied it. “These fit awesome.”

“Good.” I said with a smile. “So, what’s your plan for the night. Wanna go out and do something? I mean looking like that, you gotta go out and show off.”

“Really?” He asked looking up and smiling wide. “Wanna go to one of the places I hang out?”

“Is it safe?” I asked as I took a sip of my coffee.

“With me and that mark you got on your hand, it’s safest place in town. It’s a club though, I might try to get you a little drunk.” He said with an evil grin and a giggle.

“Sounds like a challenge.” I said standing up from my chair. “Do I get to meet some of your friends?”

“If anyone’s around, I guess.” He answered as he continued to lace his second sneaker. “So, you’re in?”

“I’m in.” I replied, ruffling his hair as I walked past him to the living room realizing I forgot one bag. “You may want this though. It’s kinda cool out tonight.” I said tossing the bag to him.

“Oh wow.” He said as he pulled the denim jacket out and held it up. “This is for me too?”

“It won’t fit me. Besides, I already have one.” I said as I disappeared into my room to change into something a little more casual. Coming back out, I stood in the doorway quietly and watched as he slipped his new jacket on and looked at himself in the mirror in the living room.

“You look great.” I said as I stood next to him and put my own jacket on. “Actually, we both look pretty hot. Maybe we better hide all this from the public, it might be dangerous.”

“Dangerous?” He asked looking up at me.

“You especially. Lookin like that you’ll have to fight the ladies off with a stick.” I said with a laugh.

“Shut up!” He said as he playfully punched my arm. “I’m with you, let them find their own cute guys.”

“Excuse me?” I asked with a laugh. “Did this just become a date without me knowing it?” I asked jokingly, punching him back.

“It is, what it is.” He replied with a smirk. “Even though you are a little young for me.” He added with a laugh.

“Young for you?” I shot back. “You look like my little brother. How old are you, anyway?”

“Thirteen.” He replied with a smile that clearly told me he wasn’t giving up his real age.

“Ok, I see how you are.” I responded with a laugh; half in shock since I pegged him for being turned so much younger originally. “We taking the car?”

“Nah, it’s close enough to walk.” He said as he grabbed a piece of his candy and popped it into his mouth. “Mmmm… Strawberry.”

“Where we goin anyway?” I asked while opening the door and turning off the lights.

“You’ll see.” He answered as he slipped past me. “I hope you can hold your liquor.” He added with a giggle.

“Oh boy.” I said as I closed the door and locked it. “This is sure gonna be interesting.”

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