“HEY!” The voice was loud, and raspy. It startled the SHIT out of me and yanked me out of a deep sleep with it’s thunderous blast of aggression. “You listening to me, kid? I said you two can’t sleep here! Move it!” I was awake, groggy, dizzy, still trying to wipe the sand out of my eyes. Everything was so disorienting at first, and then I felt the man hovering over us, using his foot to shake me until my eyes opened. “Wake up! HEY! Let’s go! Move it!” I felt an instant anger well up inside of me, ready to lash out, but I was still too bewildered to focus all that well. Then…he kicked Alec.
“Owww…” Alec moaned, not hurt too badly, but he certainly didn’t deserved to be kicked like a dog! I reacted.
“What the FUCK, man??? Don’t kick my little brother!” I shouted, getting up on my feet.
“I want both of you gone! Now! I’ve got a business to run.” He said, lighting a cigarette.
“You didn’t have to kick him. He’s just a little boy.” I said, picking up my stuff and trying to gently shake Alec awake so he could join me.
“Whatever. Just beat it. Next time I catch you kids in here, I’m calling the cops.” And he just walked away.
“What happened?” Alec asked me, wiping his eye. He had a little slobber on his cheek, and I wiped it away with the sleeve of my jacket.
“Don’t worry about it. He’s gone now.” I watched as he looked around, trying to figure out where he was, and I knew to distract him before he started with the questions. “Say, you want some breakfast? Huh?”
“I want mom to make us pancakes.” He answered, a boyish whine lacing his every sleepy word.
“Not today, kiddo. How about…we go to McDonald’s for pancakes? You like McDonald’s, right?”
He nodded his head, still using his whole hand to wipe away a restless night of slumber. “Yeah.”
“Yeah?” I pulled his jacket up on his shoulders and grabbed the bags. “Ok, come on, let’s go.” We walked out of the parking lot, heading in whatever direction we were facing, and just started walking. Day one begins…so far, so good.
Alec woke up after about a block’s worth of walking, and was already beginning to revive his bouncy nature as we walked streets that were unfamiliar to him. His hair was so screwy that I decided to leave it like that. It was cute! Hehehe! We found a McDonald’s about fifteen minutes later and I used some of my ‘travel money’ to get the both of us some pancake breakfasts. It cost a little bit more than I expected, but not that bad I guess. I was just going to have to skip a few meals here and there. There was no way that I’d be able to afford three meals a day on the amount of money that I had on me. Not for the both of us. We wouldn’t make it half way through the week before we were totally tapped out. We sat down and I watched Alec gobble everything down with a carton of milk, just happy to be awake. I certainly hope I know what I’m doing here.
When we finished and walked back out into the bright sunlight, Alec asked me, “Where are we?”
“Well, you know when Mom goes far far away on vacation?”
“Well that’s where we are. We’re on vacation. But this is a secret vacation, ok? We can’t let anybody know that we’re out here.” I was pretty sure that Chuck would be looking for us, and I didn’t need Alec blowing our cover if we went out anywhere.
“Is Mommy here with us?”
“No, Alec. Mommy is on vacation someplace else. This is just for you and me.”
“Ok.” He said. Well, that was easy.
I looked around to get my bearings. We weren’t too much further from downtown Chicago, maybe another hour and a half walk south from where we were. Maybe a bit longer since I had Alec with me. I figured that we could probably blend in pretty easily with the crowd in the downtown areas and it would make us slightly harder to spot. Not to mention that it would probably be easier to find a little habitat or something to sleep in for small amounts of time. On top of all that, Alec would be so involved in the big buildings and the commotion going on around him, he’d be too over stimulated to get homesick. Not this early, anyway. That’s a difficulty that I knew that I’d have to deal with sooner or later, but the longer I could prevent it, the better.
We started walking, and Alec was being a trooper for the first half hour or so…but his little legs got tired pretty quick. “I’m tired.”
“C’mon, Alec. We’ve just got a little bit further to go, and then we can stop, ok?”
“But I’m tired. Taryn…” He began pulling back on my hand, and it was an impossible task trying to argue logically with my little brother. I knew that from the time he learned to talk.
“Sighhhh…fine. Here, sit down over here by the tree.” I said, putting the bags down.
“There’s doggie poo over by that tree.” He said.
“Well go over and sit by the OTHER tree then.”
“There’s a squirrel in it.”
“They bite. I don’t want him to bite me.”
“He’s not gonna bite you, Alec.” I said, getting exhausted with the conversation already.
“Uh-HUH! Mom says so! She said, ‘don’t you play around those squirrels, because they bite and they have germs, and then I have to get shots in my stomach…”
“Alec, please. I’m trying to think, ok?”
“But I’m TIRED…”
“ALEC! Knock it off! Jesus!” The words had barely left my mouth before he began pouting. His bottom lip slid out and his eyes drooped almost immediately. This kid was a total CARTOON when it came to pouty faces. Sigh…it’s starting already. He turned his back to me, and I got down on one knee next to him. “Listen…I’ll tell you what, we’ll go to the park over on the next block and sit on the hill. Ok? We can relax a little bit, and then we can go to the zoo. Would you like that?” He was still maintaining that hurtful little frown on his face, and I had to put my hands on his waist to physically turn him around to look at me again. He was still sulking a bit, but there was no way that he could hide the shining spark that appeared in his eyes when I mentioned the zoo. “You wanna go? Huh?”
“You promise?” He mumbled.
“Superpromise. Besides, I haven’t been in a long time myself.” I told him, and tapped my finger playfully on the tip of Alec’s nose, bringing a slight giggle to the surface. “But we gotta walk to the park first, ok? You’re not to tired to walk to the park, are you?” He shook his head. “Good. Here, give me your bag, and I’ll carry it the rest of the way until we can sit down. Take my hand. Ok? Hold on tight.” And we started walking again. Luckily for me, Alec got himself a huff of a second wind, and it kept him energized for the duration of our stroll. So far, I was lucky…but I could only take him to the zoo one time. I wasn’t going to be able to throw too many free distractions his way for much longer.
We got to the zoo and spent the whole day there. Hours upon hours, hitting every single corner of the place from the monkey house to the snake pit. It really HAD been a long time since I’ve been there. I had forgotten how amazing it was to stand so close to animals that were much larger than life than your everyday pigeon or the occasional ‘savage attack squirrel’. And seeing Alec’s growing infatuation with every animal, the spectacular wonder and magic in his eyes…in his voice…made me appreciate it even more. It was as though some of that excitement had rubbed off on me too. It was awesome. Not only that, but since it kept Alec entertained for the bulk of our first day on the streets, I didn’t have the slightest problem with him. It’s funny, he could get exhausted after 20 minutes of walking the streets, and yet could walk the zoo for hours on end without once slowing down.
I didn’t see Alec yawn until it the sun started setting for the night. That was my signal, because I knew I didn’t have long until he transformed from bud to brat. Once the crankiness of a shitty night’s sleep crept into him, he’d be impossible to deal with. So I looked out and decided to go out to the lake before he realized how far past his nap time it was. It seems we left just in time, his voice switching to it’s whinier pitch just before getting to the beach. I told him that we could cop a squat on the softness of the sand and watch the waves for a while. If I was lucky, the sounds and sights of the slowly churning waters would put him right to sleep…and I’d get some peace and quiet for a few hours. We watched the sky get darker and darker as the sun set behind us, but our gaze stayed fixed on the liquid horizon ahead of us. After such an adventurous day, Alec was asleep in the first twenty minutes, and I was rubbing my eyes too, trying not to follow. We could hear the constant traffic zooming passed us on Lake Shore Drive, and joggers and bicyclists were just as continuous. Somehow, all of the noises combined into this peaceful, almost hypnotic, hum. It was incredibly relaxing. I felt Alec squirm a bit in my lap, and I smoothed out his hair a bit, petting him gently until he went back to sleep. I can’t explain it, but his trust in me to take care of him helped me to do so. In fact, his faith in me was probably a hundred times stronger than mine was when it came to knowing what the hell to do with this situation. If we got caught now…they’d take us back home before Mom came back into town. And Chuck would ‘punish’ us for sure. Not that mom wouldn’t have a fit when she got back too, but at least that would cause her to question what was going on in that house. Maybe then…maybe then she’ll listen. Or at least I’d raise enough suspicion to get her to keep a close eye on him. Chuck wouldn’t risk getting caught if he thought that mom was watching out for us a bit more closely. Either way, we had to stay gone for right now, and Alec’s belief in me was the only thing that was keeping me from panicking at this point. It was the rock keeping me from being swept out into a sea of confusion that I had no idea how to cope with.
Catching a few winks myself while sitting on the sand, leaning back against a concrete wall, my mind wandered back. Watching that sunrise…just like my father told me to. Waiting for it. Staring at the horizon, almost pulling the sun out of it through sheer will and determination. I remember anxiously anticipating the sight of his truck turning the corner just as the sun detached itself from the waves of the lake, and became a solid gold ball of light in the sky. I cold set my watch by it if I had to. He was always there..and just like he said…every time I saw it break over the waves to bring light to my world…I knew my father was coming home, and that he loved me. And I also remember….
…The one morning..when he didn’t come home.
“Taryn. I’m hungry.” Came Alec’s voice from below me. I wasn’t sleeping all that deeply, it was more like a hypnotic trance than sleep. So it just snapped me out of my daydream, and I looked around to see that it was a lot darker than when I closed my eyes. “Can we get something to eat?”
I was hungry myself, and my stomach started rumbling with an even greater ferocity when he mentioned food. “Hold on a sec…” I said, and reached in my pocket to see how much money I had left for the week. Thirty seven dollars, and probably enough change to add up to another dollar or two. It was hardly enough to feed ME for the rest of the week, much less me and the candy machine here. I’ll try to stretch it out a bit further, maybe skip breakfast in the morning, and make it last. I’ll worry about that stuff later, right now, we need something to give us enough energy to head further south. We were almost there.
I looked over to the right of me, and in the distance I could see a lively little peninsula, sticking out into the lake. Navy Pier…with its Ferris wheel spinning slowly, bright lights, and the promise of at least SOME kind of food. Not to mention some further entertainment for my little companion here. That looked like the best place to check out next. Can’t go wrong there. I took Alec on a nice long walk in the dark along the beach, but was able to keep his mind busy by telling him that there were scaly green, glowing, snake fish with feet in the water, and that if he got close enough he’d be able to see them swimming beside us as we walked. BUT…if he got too close…they’d pull him in and eat him alive. Cruel? Maybe. But hey…like I said…it kept him busy.
The front entrance of Navy Pier was a complete contrast to the quiet and subtle beauty of the beachwe had just come from. The lights were bright and searchlights criss crossed overhead, a sight that almost had Alec running into people as he couldn’t take his eyes off of it. The traffic moved like a steady river through the street in front of the place, taxi cabs mostly, and a huge fountain shot spurts of water high in the air, the final element that gave everything a life of its own. There were so many people, going in, coming out, passing by, taking pictures…and as we got closer to the gate on the side, the actual pier itself, we saw a huge parade of people that populated the wide dock like soldiers in an antfarm. “KEWL! Come on Taryn! Come on!” Alec shouted, forgetting about his hunger altogether for the time being. I think it would have actually bothered him to ask to get something to eat now.
He moved forward, still clutching my hand but pulling me along like a dog on a short leash.
“Ok, ok! I’m coming. Slow down a bit, will ya?” I said back to him. But it hardly did anything to stop his forward motion, he was on a mission now.
We crossed the street and walked through the tall black iron gates, opened wide to accept the people traffic going out to see Navy Pier up close and personal. I’ll have to admit, after all the years that I’ve lived here, I had never come out to see this place before. Considering all the life and commotion pouring out of it, I’m surprised that it never sucked me in before now. We were suddenly immersed in music. Various tunes from pop to disco to stuff that was just plain fun, blasted out of speakers posted on poles high in the air. Still, even with the outdoor tunes being played for the general public, it never once drowned out the songs being played by the occasional live band on the pier. As we walked further and further out into the lake, I drank in the scenery. To the left of me was a myriad of shops and vendors, to the right were cruise shps and party boats, docked in and ready to take long lines of people out for a good time. The area was packed with conversations and laughter, it brought a little feeling of acceptance to me for some unknown reason. It was just like…with all of these people here, there wasn’t anyone looking at me, examining me. No one to call me a faggot, or asking how my home life was, or to even care really. Some how, some way, just being a part of this huge crowd of people kept me from being different. It kept me from being wrong. I kinda liked that.
Not to mention….the boys here were EXTREMELY cute! Like, WAY out of my league! And I thought that Jason was the hottest guy around. The boys here were amazing. Blonds, brunettes, red heads, and some with many various shades of colors from artistically well done dye jobs. They were beautiful, and it made me drag back on Alec’s forward charge, just so I could absorb a little more of the tasty ‘scenery’. “Taryn, look!” Alec said, and he broke away from me to run over and see a juggler putting on a show for a small crowd of people. I moved through the sea of people to catch up and get a tighter grip on Alec’s hand before he messed around and got himself lost out here, and kept him right at my side. I reminded him to hold my hand at ALL times, but he was too wrapped up in the juggling to even pay me any attention. Kids.
The guy was wearing clown make up and tossing bowling pins up in the air at different heights, different speeds, and began spinning in circles, never once missing a beat, or even wavering a tiny bit to keep them from falling to the ground. I must admit, it was definitely something to see. But then…just as the clown faced guy’s show began drawing me in…I noticed something. Someone watching me. He was standing on the other side of the juggling act, and his eyes were staring straight into mine. He was in a crowd of people, just like Alec and me were at the moment, but he stuck out somehow. Unnaturally so, like he didn’t belong there. I know it might sound crazy, but he had this….enhanced vibe about him, this extra feeling of life, that made all the other people standing around him look like lifeless mannequins in comparison. It was as if they simply weren’t as REAL as he was. I looked away and pretended not to notice, but when my curiosity got the better of me, I looked back, and he was still staring directly at me. Maybe even THROUGH me.
He was about my age. Maybe a year older, but he didn’t look it. He was slim without being anorexic, with broad shoulders, and a long smooth neck. He was one of those blond boys whose hair looks like it was practically white when he was younger, but was just now getting its darker golden glow. I had never seen hair that looked so soft from far away. The way the wind blew through it, it was like it had no ‘weight’ to it at all. Every separate lock of his sun touched hair was as light and as silken as the strands of a spider’s web. His lips were perfectly molded, thin, but visibly pink, with a smooth and tight texture. He might have been an inch taller than me, not much, but the way he stared at me without flinching, or even BLINKING for that matter, made him seem much much taller somehow. Still, with all of his seductive features framing him to be a boy of unexplainable beauty…none of them matched the glory of his sparkling brown eyes. Dark, and yet full of such an inescapable luminous glow. They almost didn’t look real, instead taking on the ghostly illusion of burnt almond crystals that held the answers to every question that I could ever ask, and some questions that I would never even discover in my lifetime. They enchanted me, and everything else became background to the surprise that this stranger had suddenly brought into my life. It was only a few seconds later….that I saw him smile.
“Taryn…you’re not watching! Lookit!” Alec said, pulling at my arm to shake me out of my trance. I assured him that I was watching, and made sure that he was still tightly locked up against me to keep him from wandering in any closer. But the real show, for me, had nothing to do with a clown and his tricks. It took my focus a second to find the boy in the crowd again after the interruption, but when I looked back to where he was standing…he was gone. I scanned everyone around me, trying to find him again, but I couldn’t see him anywhere. He was gone.
It wasn’t like love at first sight or anything, I hardly believe in that crap. But there was a sudden interest in him that I just couldn’t shake. Something that wouldn’t leave me alone. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a boy that just…leaped out from the scenery the way this one did. His very presence pushed everything and everyone else into the background and made it seem as though his existence was the only thing that mattered at that particular moment. His existence, and the existence of the one person he was looking at. And…he chose ME. That thought alone, kept me trembling inside. Not from fear so much, but out of excitement over the possibility that he had seen something inside of me that I couldn’t even see for myself. Something worth staring at.
“Can I get some popcorn?” Alec asked as soon as the juggler started taking his bows. I looked back at the money and figured that if I’m going to spend it, I had better get us a meal that’s going to stick to his ribs and keep him from being hungry again in an hour.
“We should get some dinner, ok? We can get popcorn later.” I said.
“But I want popcorn…” He started, and before I could say anything to stop him from getting on my case, I saw a hand pass in between us, holding a bag of popcorn.
“No young boy should ever be deprived of his popcorn.” It was him…the blond boy was standing right next to me.
“Thanks, Mister!” Alec grabbed the bag with a smile, and started shoving it into his face. Happy as a newborn puppy.
The blond boy moved forward and stared me directly in the eye. His glare was intimidating, but not frightening. It was almost admirable for its fearlessness. Still, my guard went up immediately. Strangers being nice to me wasn’t exactly something that I was used to. “Don’t worry, I didn’t fill the bag with razor blades, if that’s what you’re thinking.” He said, a slightly crooked, almost serpentine smile appearing on his face.
“Um…no. No, I just…do I know you?” I asked.
“I don’t believe we’ve met before. Not that I can recall.” His voice was smooth, and his every word slid comfortably out from between his lips as though each phrase was quoted from sacred scripture, told from memory. “My name is Trevor.” He extended a hand.
I reached out and shook it gently, “Hi. Um…I’m Taryn, and this is my brother Alec.” Alec looked up just long enough to make eye contact, and then he went right back to his popcorn.
“It certainly is a pleasure to meet the two of you.” Trevor looked at me with a softness in his eyes, and something told me that he was ‘scanning’ me. Trying to figure me out while he distracted me with his eyes and his voice. “You were watching the show a few minutes ago…did you…like what you saw?” He said, leaning even closer to me.
I broke my eye contact to keep from giving away anything that I was feeling at that moment. I figured if I hide my eyes, my secrets would stay secret. “Yeah, it was pretty cool. Wasn’t it, Alec?” I used my brother to hopefully switch Trevor’s harsh focus off of me a little bit. But when I looked up, I noticed that it hadn’t been shaken. I cleared my throat, “Ahem…uh…th-thanks, for the popcorn and all. I can pay yu back if you want…”
“It isn’t necessary. The vendor owes me a favor. I cashed in.”
“Somebody you know?”
“I guess you can say that. Let’s just say…that it’s better to be ‘warned’ not to walk down dark alleys at night…then it is to find out why, first hand. I spared him an experience that he wasn’t quite ready for.” Trevor smiled.
“So, you and your little brother…are you just running around town tonight?” He asked.
“Yeah…sure. We were just trying to have a little fun, you know?”
“No parents? They must trust you an awful lot. Being out here all alone. And looking out for your brother too? That takes a lot of faith. Because you never know…he could get lost or something…”
Then, before Trevor finished his sentence, I heard a familiar voice call out my name. “Taryn! What’s up man?” I turned to see a small group of boys coming my way, and it was Jason. Still hot, still smiling, and still…with that DISEASE of a girlfriend on his arm! Arrrgh! “What the heck are YOU doing out here???” He said.
I think the surprise of seeing him out here kept me from being able to speak right away. Especially after what he said just the other day. “Um…hey.” Was all I could come up with.
“Your dad called my house man. He’s looking for you two something fierce.”
”He’s NOT my dad!” I grunted.
”Whatever, dude. What happened?”
I lowered my head a bit, “Nothing. Nothing happened. I guess I just stayed out past my curfew or something that’s all. No big deal.”
“Stayed out past your curfew?” Jason asked.
“With all your bags and shit packed up and on your shoulders?” Note to self…THINK before you give out some lame excuse. I paused while trying to search for something else to say, but Jason saved me by putting a hand on my shoulder. “Dude…look, don’t sweat it. None of my business. But you know I’ve got your back, right?” This is one of those times when I wish he wasn’t such a sweetheart. It only made the dull ache in my heart worse, and I couldn’t bare to look at his smile for another second.
“Yeah, I know. Thanks. I’m sorry, Jason. It’s just a really long story. I’d rather not get into it.” I said.
“No biggie. It’s already forgotten.”
“Oh…by the way, this is…” I was ready to introduce Jason to my new found friend, but when I turned back to look at him, there wasn’t a trace of him left. Gone…in mid sentence. Just like that. I saw Jason and his friends look at me weird, and I let it go. “Ummm…Nevermind. I guess he left. So, what are you guys doing out here tonight?”
“We’re always out here dude. Jimmy’s uncle Ron works in the beer garden further down the pier. So he hooks us up with free shit whenever we want. Purely on the sneak tip.” He said, “Now me? I’m doing ok. But Chad over here is totally blitzed right now!” Jason giggled as he swayed back and forth a bit, holding onto his…gulp…GIRLFRIEND…for support. I could smell the taste of alcohol on his breath, and knew that I had evidently missed quite a party.
Chad took this opportunity to speak up, even though he was having enough trouble trying to keep his slurred speech ‘aurally legible’, “Hey…I’m not drunk. I’m jussst….ssssober-ally challenged.” He mumbled. He couldn’t even stand up straight without leaning against something. His eyes were almost completely closed, and I suspect that he was about ten quick blinks from passing out for the next eight hours or so.
“Say, why don’t you hang with us, man? We’re gonna kick it here for a little while, and then go back to Jimmy’s place to crash for the night. Whaddya say?” Psh…an actual BED to sleep in, indoor plumbing, a nice hot shower, and the chance to lay my head down next to the boy that’s been holding my heart captive since the first day of school? Yeah…I think I could go for that.
“Sounds cool. I’m there. But…uh…I’ve gotta get Alec something to eat first. He’s starving.” I replied.
“Alright. When you’re done, meet us up topside by the Merry-Go-Round.” Jason grinned and ruffled Alec’s hair a little bit before he and his intoxicated rat pack started up the stairs to the second level.
I took Alec inside and luckily found a McDonald’s, even if everything seemed to have been magically priced a lot higher than every OTHER McDonald’s in the country. It’s funny what people will charge for stuff when they know they have you trapped with nowhere else to go. How else could they get away with charging two dollars plus for a 75 cent box of candy at the movies? More money gone. But at least Alec’s belly was full, I was satisfied for the time being, and we had a place to sleep tonight. So far, so good. Maybe a week away from home was going to work out a lot better than I could have ever hoped for.
Walking back up to meet the guys by the Merry-Go-Round as planned, I couldn’t help but notice something ‘different’ in the very air around me. It was like suddenly being encased in an invisible cocoon, and I froze in my tracks. My instincts caused the hair on the back of my neck to bristle up and take balance. I looked all around me to see what was causing my inner defenses to go wild all of the sudden, and when I turned around to look down to the bottom of the stairs…’he’ was standing there. Trevor was once again separating himself from all of the commotion around him, becoming the most powerful presence on the pier. But, just as fast as he appeared, he was gone again. This time…it took no distraction. This time it was as though he vanished right before my very eyes, the passing crowd wiping him completely out of my vision. I searched through the passing crowd and couldn’t find a trace of him anywhere. He was gone. Just….gone.
It was then that I realized that both of my hands were empty with the exception of the bags on my shoulder…and Alec…
…Wasn’t holding my hand anymore.
The adrenaline of the moment forced a cold wave of fear to jump up into my throat, and this immediate sense of emergency swept me into a terrifying panic. “Alec? ALEC???” I called out to him, straining my ears to hear if he answered back between calls. But I didn’t hear anything. Where did he go? WHERE’S MY BROTHER??? “Shit! Shit shit shit!!!” I ran up to the top of the stairs and looked up and down the entire pier for him, but there were so many people that I wouldn’t have been able to find a four year old if I tried! The panic increased by the second, and I began to shout out loud. “ALEC?!?!” No answer. Oh my God…what the fuck do I do? He’s gotta be here, he couldn’t have gotten far. I’ve gotta find him! I’ve GOT to! The GUYS!!! I’ll get them to help me look!
I sped over to the Merry-Go-Round and found them all standing there, leaning up against the railing and sipping beer out of paper cups they got from some fast food joint. I ran up and tried to catch my breath as I tried to explain what happened. “I’ve gotta find him, Jason! He could get hurt, or kidnapped, or ANYTHING out here….!!!”
“Ok, ok, Taryn…calm down. He’s only four years old, how far can he get before somebody notices and asks him where his parents are? Right? It’s Navy Pier, I’m sure kids get lost all the time out here. Look, Bobby, you go down to the main office and see if they turned him in. Jimmy, you check up and down the pier. Look for anything playful….you know, shiny lights, clowns, whatever. The rest of us will spread out and look for him around here. He couldn’t have gone too far. We’ll meet back here if we find anything, got it?” Jason sent everybody off, and then turned to me and said, “Don’t worry, dude. We’ll find him. K?” I nodded, and I forced the panic to die down just enough to keep my mind clear and look.
We looked high and low, each one of us calling out his name, and I checked back inside of the shopping area. But I hadn’t found the slightest trace of him. My brother was gone. He was out here somewhere, lost, maybe even hurt, and I couldn’t find him. The feeling made my breathing labored and heavy, and soon the horror of possibly having something happen to Alec while I was supposed to be looking out for him, while his complete and unshakable faith was all on MY shoulders, was enough to bring tears to my eyes. There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t protect him…I couldn’t keep him safe…I just…I just…
As I began to cry, I headed for the closest bathroom and ducked inside. I pulled out three or four paper towels from the machine and wiped my eyes clean. But everytime I got rid of one tear, two more took it’s place, and the waterworks were pressing hard on me, waiting for the damn to burst. There were only two other people in the bathroom at he time, and when one of them came up to wash his hands, the humiliation of crying in public set off a flood and I had to turn my back to keep him from seeing it. He walked out and the other guy left soon after. So I walked over to the sink and splashed a little cool water on my face to see if I could think straight. My chest was trembling, shaking so bad that the fear inside was almost rattled to pieces. And the tears started all over again. I leaned forward and splashed some more water on my face, but this time when I came up and looked in the mirror in front of me, I saw someone else in the reflection behind me. It was Trevor, his bronzed eyes meeting mine through the mirrored image.
I spun around quickly and saw a smirk on his face. Then, in his soft and soothing tone, he said, “I believe you lost something.” And I saw Alec peek his head out from behind his leg.
“ALEC!!!!!” I shouted, and ran over to him, hugging him so tightly that he could hardly breathe. Then, I felt the adrenaline rush into my arms and a sudden shot of anger surged throughout my entire system. I grabbed him hard by the arms, and began to shake him violently. “WHAT DID I TELL YOU??? HUH??? Do you have any IDEA what you just put me through?!?!?!”
“I’m sorry, Taryn…” He whimpered, but I shook him even harder.
“DON’T YOU *EVER* WALK AWAY FROM ME LIKE THAT AGAIN!!! DO YOU HEAR ME? NOT EVER!!!” Alec’s eyes started to tear up and he began to cry, still apologizing and telling me not to be mad. The anger subsided a bit, and my relief returned in its place. I sighed out loud and hugged him tight against me. “God, Alec…if anything ever happened to you…I don’t know what I’d do. I don’t know what I’d do.” I whispered.
Trevor allowed us a few quiet seconds, and then spoke up. “I just happened to catch him following one of the walking vendors selling a horde of glow sticks out by the anchor. I kinda figured that you were somewhere close by, but when I didn’t see you after a few minutes, I figured I’d keep an eye on him and try to catch up to you later.”
I stood up on my feet again, and wiped the last few tears from my face. “Omigod…thank you! Thank you soooo much! I don’t know what to say.”
“Thank you is more than enough. I assure you.” He stepped closer and stared deeply into my eyes. He had this strange ability to render you completely vulnerable with a simple squint of his eyes, and I fell silent. “So, I take it you are still experiencing all the wonder and beauty of Navy Pier? Hopefully you won’t let this little scare keep you from having fun tonight.”
“Well, actually…some friends and I are going to leave pretty soon…” I said. Trevor paused for a short moment, never afraid of the silence that occurred between his words and mine.
“Leaving? You haven’t even been to the anchor at the end of the pier yet. It truly is a sight to behold, you know. I usually go there to think, clear my head. I thought maybe you needed some quiet time…in case you had anything to purge.” His almost sinister smile returned to his face in full bloom.
“What would make you think that?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t know…you just seem like someone…” He stepped closer and lightly brushed a few loose strands of hair out of my face,”…with a lot on his mind.” His eyes were so close that his gaze was all I could see. And when I found the courage to look closer…there was something inside of them that I hadn’t noticed before. This hint of a weird…golden…GLOW or something. He must have seen me looking, and seeing it for the first time was both intriguing and creepy at the same time. It didn’t even look human. Trevor backed away slightly and directed his eyes in such a way where the glow wasn’t so evident anymore. “You know, hanging out with your friends tonight might prove to be a good time, I’m sure. But…in the slight case that you’re looking for something new, something a little racier, I can provide you with a party that you would remember the rest of your days. Guaranteed.” He said, a bit more forward than what I’m used to.
“Um…actually…I think…I think I should get back to my friends. They were nice enough to help me look for my brother, I could at least put them at ease.”
“Your friend Jason seemed pretty at ease to me while he was sticking his tongue in that girls mouth by the Ferris Wheel.” Trevor’s smile widened, attractive and foreboding at the same time, and he asked again, “They’ll get the hint. Why don’t you follow me instead? It’ll be fun, I promise.”
“Sorry…thanks for your help and all, but I really have to get going.” I started walking towards the door, but his voice followed me without any effort at all.
“Can I ask why?”
“Why you won’t join me tonight. What are you afraid of? You might like it.”
I turned to face him, “No offense, but I don’t even know you.”
“There was a time when you didn’t know your friends either. But at some point you took a chance on a few strangers and voila, here you are.” He approached slowly until he was standing directly in front of me. “Take a chance on me, Taryn.”
Ok, he was cute. I’ll give him that. But this was beginning to cross the lines of interesting, freaky, and weird. Now he was getting to be just plain scary. I took a step back away from him and pushed Alec a little bit further behind me. “Look, what do you want from us? Huh?”
“I just told you. I want your company.”
“Why?” I snapped back.
“Because I go from crowd to crowd, looking at the people that pass by me in the street, or around the fountain, or here on the pier…and most of them seem so bland. So everyday. You’d be surprised how little most people use their brains. How mundane and unoriginal their thoughts are. They’re a flea circus, all marching to the same beat. They’ll accept anything as the truth as long as you get the right important person to present it to them. It can be so boring.” Again, Trevor decreased the space between himself and me by taking a step and a half forward. His eyes burrowed even deeper into my soul and I was captivated all over again, by the muddied glow that was trying so hard to burst out of his eyes and light up the whole room. “But YOU, Taryn…you’ve got something else going on behind those pretty green eyes of yours. A fire, a determination…you actually ‘think’ about the world around you. And unlike so many others, you’re just beginning to realize that the feelings in your heart and the thoughts in your head…don’t necessarily match up with the everyday notion of what you should be. What you should act like, what you should wear…even who you should love.”
“You’re a freak.” I said, ready to turn and walk away.
“Of course I am. I am the one lemming who sees the cliff and refuses to go over. What’s wrong with ME, right?”
“I…” I started to tell him that I was leaving, when the bathroom door opened and two guys in business suits came into to use the urinals. I kept my mouth shut and was waiting for them to leave before saying another word.
Trevor, however, didn’t see the need to wait. “You see? Right there. You got quiet. Why?” He looked over at the two guys with their backs to us. “Is it them? Is that what stifles your thoughts and feelings and keeps your mind held hostage in that tiny little cage?”
“What are you talking about?” I whispered loudly.
“WHY ARE YOU WHISPERING, TARYN?” He said out loud with a huge smile. I saw the two guys turn to look over their shoulders at us by the sink, and I blushed from embarassment. “Don’t waste your blush on them, Taryn. After all…’you don’t even know them’, right?” I stayed quiet as one of the guys flushed and zipped up his pants. “You’re really going to sacrifice a piece of yourself for these two strangers who you’ll probably never see again in your life? Anything to make you blend into the background and keep from standing out. Anything to not have your precious secrets discovered and exploited by two old guys in business suits who could ONLY describe you as the ‘reddish brown haired boy from the bathroom’.”
“Can we just…NOT do this right now?”
“I don’t feel the need to whisper, Taryn. I don’t. As far as I’m concerned, these two can go fuck themselves.” He said in a normal speaking voice, which in a half empty bathroom echoes a lot louder than you would think. The guys both looked over at Trevor after what he just said, but he never flinched, never even looked in their direction. He just really didn’t care. I used one of my hands to cover my face in shame, but Trevor pulled my hand down. “Don’t! I told you, it’s fine. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. You see this guy behind me…he’s cheating on his wife with a 16 year old girl that works for him at the bookstore downtown.” The man was appalled, and his eyes widened until I thought they were going to roll right out of his head. “And the other one is actually a homosexual. He’s been in love with this guy for so long that he’s actually going to help him keep his dirty little secret by giving him an alibi whenever he needs one.” The second man was now the one trembling, embarrassed beyond belief. The two men looked at each other in horror. “Oh…you didn’t know? Yeah…you’re friend here is gay. Wants to fuck your brains out. And that’s just for STARTERS!” Trevor’s flawless face was on the verge of cracking a smile, but not quite. He was serious enough to know that he was telling the truth. The looks on the two men’s faces was more than enough proof of that. “But hey, you should be flattered, dude. Really. It’s a GOOD thing.” The first man left angrily with the second one giving Trevor the most hurt look I had ever seen on a grown man’s face, before walking out behind him.
“I can’t believe you just did that.” I said.
“What? Like those two guys were going to lay judgement on YOU for whatever it was that you had to say to me just now? Whatever secrets, lies, imperfections, and faults you may be carrying around with you, there’s always somebody else with a matching set. But since we never get to see the other person’s flaws and it’s so easy to deny our own…we limit ourselves as to what we can say, think, and feel, in front of other people. For most…I wouldn’t be missing much…” Trevor continued, “…But you? You have so much heart, so much emotional nitro inside of you, just WAITING to be tapped. I can feel it. Even when you choke it back and try to bury it under this faked performance that you call a life.”
“Thanks.” I said sarcastically. Where the hell does he get off…?
“It’s not meant to be an insult, Taryn. It’s more of a question. One that will hopefully open your eyes just a little bit wider…and maybe help you to see something you never saw before. That’s all.” Alec began to get a bit restless and, to be totally honest, I was looking for a reason to walk away anyway. There was no way for me to say that I wasn’t somehow ‘drawn in’ by this boy. Everyhing about him excited me in the strangest way, but when my instincts start setting off alarms, I’m usually one to abide by them. He saw me getting ready to take off, and asked again, “So what do you say, cutie? Just one night?”
“Like I said…I’ve got plans with my friends tonight. I’ve gotta go.”
“I promise, I don’t bite. And if I do, I promise to let you bite me back.” He grinned. But as I inched closer to the door, he knew that it wasn’t going to hel him any. “Ok…I’ll tell you what, I’ll be out by Buckingham Fountain tomorrow night around 8 or 9 o’clock. If the thing with you and your friends doesn’t work out, and you want to let go of some of all that precious ‘restraint’ of yours, come find me. I’ll be there.”
“Yeah…the fountain…ok. Later.” And I shuffled Alec out of the bathroom door quickly, leaving the mischievous grin of a beautiful brown eyed blond behind me. As creepy as the whole situation should have seemed, I left with a slightly different feeling inside. Almost like this…liberating sensation that told me that I was more than I had given myself credit for. I guess Trevor had a knack of not only making me feel equal to the rest, but almost like I was sitting on their shoulders. For someone in the closet, spending half of his day hating himself and the other half being lost in the fantasy that he was someone else…that can be a very comforting feeling.
I took Alec back up to the second level and we all met up to go over to jimmy’s house. Trevor stayed locked into my thoughts all the way there, but it had competition once I saw Jason and his new whore kissing on the train. It was one of those things that really hurt me to watch, but I was turned on by it anyway. It was a sexual side of Jason that I had never seen before, and now here it was, up close and personal….even if it was never meant to be tossed in my direction. The best I could do was watch and find ways to pretend that it was me he was kissing so passionately. The more I wanted him, the stronger the force field got around him, pushing me further and further away. My heart was becoming as brittle as glass, as weak as the thin ice that Jason was stomping on everytime his lips connected with hers. And I felt it crack and break under the weight of an impossible solution to the situation. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity..I was able to look away, and stop torturing myself any further. For now, anyway.
We got to Jimmy’s house and we all got set up with sleeping bags and the like over his living room floor. They gave Alec the bed because he was so young, and much to my good fortune, that meant that Jason’s girl had to sleep on the floor. There wouldn’t be any hanky panky with a severe minor in the room. It was a sigh of relief that I silently thanked God for. I doubt I could have handled the sounds of them making love, I would have been dead inside by morning. They also gave Chad the foot of the bed to sleep on. Well….actually, that’s where he passed out, and nobody had the energy to move him or argue with him to move himself, so we left him there. And last, but not least, Jason put a sleeping bag and a pillow right down on the floor next to me. Next to ME! I know, I know, lost cause. Tell that to the jittery flutter of virgin hysteria that was crashing around inside me when he laid down. No matter what the reality was, I still lived for these little moments of joy.
Once the lights went out, Jason and I whispered back and forth to one another, just shooting the shit and making little jokes here and there. He was the only one to soothe the pain that HE created to cause me so much misery. But I had an awesome time, and his whispers soon got softer, and softer, until they died out completly and he started to go to sleep. I just lay there in the dark, watching him, my eyes adjusted to the light. The rise and fall of his stomach, the gentle part in those sweet red lips. I inched closer, and closer, and closer still…until I was able to lay my head down on his pillow. It was the closest I had ever been to him. Ever. And my heart was beating so fast that I could have sworn the whole room had heard it. I was so close….soooo close. I tilted my head up a little, and realized that my lips were just inches from his neck. I wondered, how hard does he sleep? And how much could I get away with? I licked my lips, trembling at the thought…but decided against it. Instead, I simply cuddled up next to him, barely touching his body, but it only took a tiny amount of skin to skin contact to excite me when it came to Jason. I laid there at his side, and went to sleep. A good sleep this time.
Day two went by without too much trouble. Only five more to go. Let’s just hope that nothing goes wrong.