Corey wearily finished up the last of the chores before his Dad got home…he knew the consequences for leaving even the smallest morsel of trash visible, the tiniest crumb on the counter…and he swept his tired eyes over the kitchen, satisfied that he was done. The oven beeped, signaling dinner was ready, so he took it out and placed it on the freshly cleaned counter, before slumping over onto a chair, exhausted. He’d tried extra hard today, fully cooking the chicken for 2 hours, checking the temperature every half hour, while cutting up the salad, and spreading bread crumbs, as well. It was the best dinner he’d ever made, he was sure of it.
“Cooorrrreeeeyyyyy, there’s a mess in the bathroom!” his twin brother, Colin, yelled. He sighed and got to his feet, his whole body still ached from the beating his father had given him three days ago, he really didn’t want another one today. He cleaned the bathroom, then went back into the kitchen, where his…Dad was waiting. Oh no.
“YOU WORTHLESS SHIT, IT’S FUCKING COLD!” his father yelled, backhanding Corey across the face, sending the 13 year old crashing into a cabinet. “IF I’VE TOLD YOU ONCE I’VE TOLD YOU A MILLION TIMES!” his father marched to where the boy had fallen, squatted right over his prone son, and punched him in the face. “DON’T. FUCKING. TAKE. IT. OUT. TIL. I’M. HOME.” Each word was punctuated by a punch somewhere on his already aching body. He bit his lip, trying to keep from crying out in pain, but a punch to the stomach knocked the wind from the boy, and he screamed, curling into a ball.
“P…pp…Dad…Dad please…please, don’t hurt me! I…I tried to do good, I promise, Dad!”
“YOU COCKSUCKING BASTARD! DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO FUCKING DO, I MADE YOU!” another hard backhand slap, then “GO TO YOUR FUCKING ROOM, WHILE I TRY TO FIX THIS MESS YOU CALL DINNER!”
He moaned as he tried to get to his feet, using the wall to pull himself up, then he slowly walked upstairs, almost falling several times, but making it. He slowly walked into his room then fell onto his bed, finally falling asleep from the exhaustion he felt.
“WAKE UP YOU PILE OF SHIT!” his Dad yelled, he cried out a second later as he felt a harsh belt slap against his skin. “Get the fucker naked, Colin.”
“Yes sir.” Colin asked, walking over to his brother’s bed. He grabbed Corey by the throat and threw him onto the floor, then ripped his shirt off. His Dad immediately whipped Corey repeatedly with the belt, causing the boy to cry out in pain as the belt buckle opened up gashes and cuts on his torso, again.
“You fucking made us, US, clean up your fucking mess you cunt!” Dad yelled, slamming the belt into his son. “Because you were fucking selfish and had to fucking sleep!”
“DAD PLEASE! I’LL BE GOOD! Please Dad…stop, it hurts too much, owwwww!” Corey screamed, trying to curl up into a ball again, but Colin stopped him, holding his arms straight over his head so his father could whip him over and over. Hot tears blurred his vision as he tried to get away from the belt, he exposed his back, and that, too, was whipped mercilessly. “Colin, please…”
“Shut the fuck up.” His twin said, pulling his dick out of his shorts and shoving it into his brother’s mouth, forcing the younger blonde to suck or suffocate. He heard his Dad laughing as his brother forced him to suck dick. Tears continued to stream down his face as his Dad switched to a lamp cord, double folding it and repeatedly hammering his youngest sons torso and back. He jumped and shook as already deep cuts were struck, he wished he’d…he wished he’d known, wished he’s gotten to … to drink, to numb his whole body with vodka, at least then he wouldn’t feel it so much…
“God you’re a fucking slut for cock.” Colin said, he didn’t know how much later it was, time blurred for him, he just knew his whole body was on fire, he was shivering and his brother was fucking his face.
“You gonna cum?” Dad laughed.
“Fuck yeah Dad…best cocksucker ever.” Colin laughed back, before pulling his cock from his brother’s mouth and jacking off, spraying his twin with his seed.
“Ahhhhhhh ahhhhhhh ahhhhhhhhhh!” Corey yelled as the cum shot into some of his cuts, it felt like his blood was literally sizzling.
“SHUT UP!” Dad yelled, harshly whipping him again with his belt. A few minutes later, or hours, he wasn’t really sure, but he knew it ended at some point, and both Colin and Dad left, leaving the boy battered on the floor, shivering naked and coughing, his whole body lined with gashes, cuts, welts and blood.
He laid there unmoving for a long time, wishing he were dead, or unconscious, or anything to stop feeling the horrible pain through his whole body, but he wasn’t, and he had to deal with it…this was the worst beating he’d ever taken, it felt like he was going to be in pain forever. He reached a shaking arm for his bed, intending to haul himself up to his feet, but when he put any pressure on his right arm, it sent white hot searing pain through his entire body, he just collapsed onto the floor and sobbed, putting his head against the side of the bed so his cries couldn’t be heard.
After a few more minutes, he again tried to get up, this time using his left arm to pull himself to his feet, then he limped into his bathroom, each agonizing step sending shockwaves of agony through his body, but he was well used to the pain, maybe not this much, but he knew what he had to do, he’d learned that lesson at the tender age of 7, when one of his…cuts had become infected, and his father had been forced to call a doctor. From then on, he knew to buy anti-bacterial creams and the like, for such times as now. He opened the medicine cabinet and removed the cream, then set about applying it, each touch on his wounds sending fresh waves of unending agony through his small, battered body. When he was done, he felt slightly better, but he had also come to a decision. He was done with this…he was going to run away, this time he’d do it so he’d never be found, not like the last few times. And if he ever thought…if…if he ever saw his Dad…he’d … he’d run and then kill himself. Anything…anything was better then this.
He limped back into his room and took out his backpack, and stuffed it with clothes, enough to last him two weeks, then he grabbed a sock and stuffed it into his mouth and went into his Dad’s room, being very very careful not to make a sound, as he went to the closet, and opened the door slowly. He knew his Dad kept his safe in the closet, and he knew the combination was Mom’s birthday. He looked behind him, making sure his Dad was still asleep, before opening the safe and grabbing whatever he could in one snatch, then quickly getting up and hurrying from the room, but not before he took his Dad’s wallet, too. He’d learned in the past not to take the credit cards, since he couldn’t use them, anyway, so he cut them into small pieces, leaving them littered on his floor, then he locked the door to his room, and stacked whatever he could behind it, before going over to his window and opening it, looking at the 3 story drop to the ground below.
“Either 3 foot drop…or Dad and Colin.” He thought to himself, and that made the decision soooo much easier, he stuffed the money into his backpack, then tossed it out of the window, before he climbed out and hung from the ledge and leapt, screaming as he landed on his right arm, thankfully, he didn’t think he’d broken any bones. He scrambled to his feet, picked up his backpack, and ran blindly, the only direction that mattered to him was “away”.
He found himself at the bus and train station, and pulled out his Dad’s wallet, then said to the clerk “One ticket to…San Antonio, please.”, wondering why of all the cities to choose from, he’d picked that one.
“How old are you, son?”
“13, but I’m meeting my uncle in San Antonio.” He lied. “He’ll be waiting for me.”
“Yes, he knows I’m coming.” Corey said, swallowing once, hoping this would work.
“What’s his name, son?”
“Uncle Frankie.” He said. “Frank Carter.”
“Here’s your ticket, a conductor on the train will be instructed to take you personally to find your uncle.” The clerk said, handing him a ticket. He nodded, then got onto the train he was directed onto, trying to think of ways to get away from the conductor once they reached San Antonio.
When the time came, it wasn’t all that hard, he just drove his elbow into the man’s groin, then took off running, exiting the train station and racing down some streets until he found a hotel…at which point he found out 13 year old boys can’t rent hotel rooms, especially at 2am in the morning. He was forced to sleep in the park that night, at least it was summertime and not cold, he used his backpack as a pillow, falling asleep really quickly.
He woke up when he felt the sun’s hot rays beating down on his face until it became unbearably hot and yawned, wondering why for a few seconds, before it all came rushing back to him. The beating…the stealing, and the escape. By now, his father would have called the police, and they’d know what he looked like, and…where he had been going. He needed to leave. Now. He quickly rolled off the bench, got up, and ran/limped out of the park, blending into the crowd. He also knew he needed to put new creams onto his … onto what his Dad and brother did to him, so he needed to find a drugstore or something.
He stopped in an alley and grabbed his Dad’s wallet, then filled it with 20s from his backpack, before resuming his search for a drugstore. He spotted a CVS and quickly went in, bought what he needed, and rushed out, not even waiting for his change.
“Hey!” someone said. “Hang on a second…” he shook his head, turning and taking off, zigzagging his way through the crowd, not taking any chances.
“There’s a runaway shelter down the street.” he heard someone say, the voice getting closer. He shied away, petrified of anything and anyone, preparing to run again. “You don’t have to be scared of me.” He snorted, as if his father hadn’t tried that same line several times.
“I live there, too, do you need a place to stay?” he saw now it was a girl, but he was still scared…anyone could hurt him. “You can follow me.” She said, reaching for his hand. He snatched it back, shaking his head again. “OK, OK…just follow me, and I promise no one will hurt you, OK?”
“Can I…just…shower?” he asked softly. “Then I’ll leave.”
“We don’t force anyone to stay, but if you need a place to sleep, you’re always welcome, my name is Danielle, I’m 16 years old. I promise no one there will hurt you.”
“M…my name is…” he said, blinking.
“I’ll just call you … Stray, if you don’t want to tell me your name.” Danielle said. “Will you follow me?”
“I, I don’t…”
“Just come, take a shower, and leave, OK? Just what you want to do, nothing more.” She said, imploring him. He nodded once, and the smile that lit her face made him smile just a little. Still, he stayed a few steps behind her, ready to run if he needed to.
“Who are you running from? Or running to?” she asked, turning to see him following. “From, then.”
“It…it…it’s OK.” He said softly, shaking his head again. She nodded, leading him on in silence, which was just fine with him. Once they arrived, Danielle had to sign him into the shelter.
“J…just use…Stray.” Corey said softly.
“The showers are down that hall and on the left for the boys, OK? There are private stalls if you don’t want anyone to see you, and you can leave your things in a locker, no one will take them.” She told him. He nodded, then slowly limped down the hall, following Danielle’s directions and finding a row of lockers. He kept his head down, making sure not to look at anyone, and also not bumping into anyone. He put his backpack into a locker, then grabbed his bag from CVS and went into a private shower stall. He stripped naked, and for the first time, looked down at his … at what his Dad had done to him, and he almost threw up. There were deep deep gashes into his chest, places where he was still bleeding from, and he knew from experience he would for the next few days, maybe longer. It wasn’t just his chest, either, he felt them running all over his back and legs.
He turned on the water, then opened the two boxes of creams, putting them onto the shelf, then turning the water on hot, biting his lip to keep from screaming out as the scalding hot water hit his battered body, searing the cuts shut. The pain, however, dropped him to the floor, and he couldn’t help but cry out once or twice as the searing water sealed his cuts. He had the presense of mind to turn over, letting the water do it’s job over his entire body, before grunting and getting to his feet, holding onto the wall to make sure he didn’t fall onto the floor. He shakily unscrewed the caps to both creams and covered his cuts (basically his whole body) in one, then the other, to prevent infection and to hurry the healing process, still, with the … severity of the beating he’d taken, he knew it would be a month or more before most of the marks on his body would fade. He turned off the water, then grabbed the towel that had…appeared over the stall door and used it to carefully dry himself off, then spread a second layer of creams onto his body, boxed both up, and walked out (a mistake).
Everyone who was standing in the showering area stared at him, and he got sooo many questions asking what happened to him, and a lot of really really sad looks, he could tell everyone pitied him. He hung his head, grabbed his backpack, put on a fresh set of clothes, then walked back out towards the front door.
“Stray!” Danielle called, walking towards him. He shrank back, but she stopped short. “Are…are you going to spend the night?” he wordlessly shook his head, inching along the wall, trying to keep away from her and get to the door. “I already told you I wouldn’t hurt you, Stray, I don’t know what you’ve had to endure, but I can promise you that whenever you’re inside this building, you won’t have to be scared of anything.”
“I…thank you.” He said softly, getting to the door, then opening it and bolting outside. He walked along some random streets, and found himself down near a river, with a lot of people and some vending booths. His mouth watered as he passed all the food, and he got into line for one of the stands, then ordered a bacon cheeseburger and fries, with a medium soda, then went and sat down on a bench and enjoyed his meal. After, headed away from the river, since it was getting even more crowded, he found he was heading back to Danielle and the runaway shelter, but he didn’t want to go back there, either, so he turned and went into the park, which was much less crowded.
He just wandered around for a while, until the sun set and it got darker out, and the park filled up with more people until he heard a twig snap near him, then he ran, he ran out of the park and across the street, ending up right where he didn’t want to be.
“For someone who doesn’t want to stay here, you sure come by a lot.” Danielle said, she sounded amused.
“I thought I…I heard…a…there was a…twig in the woods…” he stammered out. “I…I need to…to eat, then…go sleep.”
“In the park again?” she asked softly. “We have beds, Stray.”
“N…n…no, it’s…I should…I…can’t…”
“Stray, please…just, try it for tonight, OK? I don’t want to go to sleep tonight knowing you’re out on the street, or sleeping on a park bench, or in a warehouse.” Danielle pleaded.
“I…I have to go eat.” He said lamely.
“We serve food, come on, it’s good, and healthy.” She said, reaching out for his arm. He jerked back with a cry, not letting her even get a finger on him. “O…K, no touching.” She said, tilting her head at the building. He nodded, barely noticeably, but followed the girl into the building.
“No one will ever ask you anything here, Stray.” She continued, after signing him in again. “The only rule we have is you sign yourself in and sign yourself out whenever you come and leave, so we can keep track of people and stuff. But no one here will ever ask you for your story, or…why you’re here, or anything of that nature. If you WANT to talk, we’re all certified to listen, we’ve gone through the training required to be…counselors.”
“I just…I wanna eat…then…” he said softly, as she led him into the cafeteria.
“What would you like? Everyone is required to have a salad, then a choice of meal.”
“Sure, 2 or 3?”
“Three.” He said softly, before going into the farthest corner of the room, so he could see everything around him and no one could sneak up on him. Danielle came back and put his food down on the table, then sat down next to him.
“We have a bunch of rooms for…for people who…like to be alone, for whatever reason, they lock from the inside, and you have the only key. There are no windows so you can’t leave, but that’s all. I’m not saying you HAVE to stay here, but if you want to…” Danielle said, before getting up. “I have to go…there are other people here who need my help, let me know either way, if you’re going to stay, or not.” Then she left him alone to eat. Once he finished, he tossed his garbage, then decided he could stay, since everyone else was ignoring him…he felt OK. All he wanted was for no one to … notice him, since if no one noticed him, no one could hurt him. He walked slowly back to the front, then, as he saw Danielle hugging and petting a girl, he decided he didn’t want to stay. He didn’t want to…to be hugged, or anything, so he signed out, and left, heading further down the street.
He walked further and further down the street, then turned and headed down an alley, finding an abandoned warehouse sitting all by itself, he sighed, knowing that he’d found his bed for the night. He walked in using a side door, then dragged over some mats he found, putting then in the farthest corner and yawning, he’d been walking all day and was tired. He again used his backpack as a pillow, and fell asleep within seconds.
That’s how his first week in … where was he…oh yeah, San Antonio, that’s how his first week in San Antonio went, he spent time at the shelter, Danielle kept trying to talk him into staying there during the nights, and eventually, after a week, he said he would, so Danielle set him up in a room that was just like she said it would be, no windows, one lock, and the key was handed to him.
“When, if you ever feel you can trust me, or anyone else, you can give this key to that person, OK? No pressure, and you can just keep it, all right? All we ask is…if you ever…leave, that the key is left in the room, or at the front desk.”
“OK…thanks, Danielle…” he said, shying away from her when it looked like she might hug him.
“Right, no touching…for what it’s worth, I’m glad you decided to stay here tonight, Stray, I’ve been worried about you.”
“I…no one’s ever…thanks…” he whispered, hugging his backpack close to him.
“You don’t have to worry about anyone taking that, is that…all you have from…home?” she asked. He nodded, then climbed into bed, looking at her.
“They keep getting younger…” she whispered sadly. “Do you need a light?”
“No, Dad…no, I don’t.” He said, sighing softly.
“I’m here if you ever need to talk, Stray, all right? G’night, and…it’ll get better, whatever it is, I promise you it’ll get better.” She said, shutting the light and then shutting his door.
And that’s how the second week he spent in San Antonio went, he stayed at the shelter, but he kept to himself, he never…ever, spent time with any of the other kids, except once, when a 9 year old girl named Tanya fell off the indoor jungle gym and he was the only one in the area to hear her screaming.
“Hey…hey it’s OK!” he said, running into the room and quickly ducking under the jungle gym, then hugging the girl tightly. “What happened?”
“I…I fell from the top, and I hurt my leg, I think it’s broked!” she yelled. He hugged her tightly to his body, letting her cry until someone cleared their throat.
“What happened, Stray, Tanya?” it was some guy he’d seen around, but he never talked to him, he hardly talked to Danielle, even if he liked her.
“She fell from the top, I … I didn’t want to leave her alone, so I … I hugged her, I wanted…wanted to make her…feel good, I’m sorry, I should’ve…told someone…pl…please don’t…don’t be mad…” he stammered out, swallowing once. “Please don’t hurt me.” He pleaded.
“No one’s going to hurt you, Stray…we don’t hurt our children here. Can you carefully bring Tanya out, so we can check on her?”
“I…I’ll try…” he said, softly, trying to tug the girl along, but he just couldn’t, not without causing himself pain, his wounds pulled tight. He hung his head, and carefully crawled out from under the jungle gym. “I’m…I’m sorry…” he whispered, quickly running from the room. He grabbed his backpack, and ran from the shelter, not stopping, even when he heard Danielle calling for him. He spent the next couple of hours wandering down near the river, until he got hungry, he decided to have a couple of hot dogs and a soda, so he got into line, got and paid for his food, then went and sat down on a bench to eat it.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Looking back on that day, so many months ago…he was struck by how…how afraid he was of petty things, things that shouldn’t have scared him. He also realizes that even though that wasn’t the night he was formally turned…that night was when his humanity was forfeit, the night he met Orphan, Cole and Dodger. There were times he … wished that he hadn’t done it, hadn’t accepted what Orphie had offered him, but then, all he had to do was look into the crystal blue eyes of his lover, and the minute regret was instantly dissolved, replaced by overwhelming love, and safety. THIS WAS where he belonged, in darkness, with his Orphan, his Lucas, his Joshua.