It was taking a lot longer than usual to get Alec out of that toy store, especially with my weird friend here egging him on. I tried to satisfy Alec’s curiosity by allowing him to see as much of the store as he wanted to see. I figured he’d rush through most of the stuff and get bored after he had seen it all….twice. But, dammit…that place seemed to go on forever. Floor after floor after floor full of toys and games, each one taking at least a half hour for his excited little legs to race through. Even though I was, frankly, exhausted by the very overall feel of the place…it was good to see Alec so happy, even if only for a little while. I couldn’t help but smile as he ran circles around the other customers, his hands touching everything that they could come in contact with. It was nice, and it kept his mind off of…well…worrisome thoughts. I wish it could find something to do the same for me.
I didn’t bother suggesting that we move along. I doubt Alec would restrain his pouty whine even a little bit if I asked him to leave with me. I guess I can’t blame him. Let him have his fun. Besides, it was warm inside, and I was still holding on to a bit of the frozen chill that I had gotten from this morning’s sleep under the overpass. I’m surprised that my lips hadn’t turned completely blue from it, and my fingers literally ached to the bone from being clutched so tightly around my brother’s slim shoulders all night long. So I suppose it was best to stay inside for as long as we could and just be grateful that he hadn’t gotten hungry again.
Trevor, however, was a bit harder to figure out in terms of who he was and what he wanted from me. It was like…he had this unsettling stare about him that trapped you like a deer in headlights whenever you saw it. Even when it was accompanied by a warm smile. Some of the things he said to me…slightly flirtatious, highly mysterious, nearly invasive. It was almost as if he enjoyed walking that fine line between intriguing me and offending me. Between piquing my interest and freaking me out. Whatever he was doing, he was very good at it. Because just when I was coming to the conclusion that he was just too creepy for me to be around, his tone would change…his smile would brighten…and I’d be drawn to his alluring presence all over again. I don’t know why, but something about his entire existence was a seduction for the senses…and it made you want to know him. Made you want to get closer to him. And trying to resist his playful charms caused me more stress than comfort. It was really enchanting. I can only hope I wasn’t being lured into a virtual spider web here.
Trevor was great with Alec, and knew exactly how to talk to him, no matter what the situation. Alec adored him, and pretty much adopted him the second he offered him that first bag of popcorn. He could get my baby bother to smile even faster than I could, and he wielded that talent like a weapon. However, I began to notice that Trevor always seemed to keep Alec’s attention on the toys surrounding him in the store. And yet, he always tried to keep my attention focused solely on him. Sending Alec off and keeping me still. It was very unique how he could easily manipulate both strategies at once without so much as losing the tilt of an already wicked smile. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to keep Alec out of the picture entirely, or if he just understood my dilemma and wanted to help keep him happy by showing him even more toys to drool over. It was hard to tell. But every time his eyes met mine, I found myself being sized up like a piece of meat…as though he was…I don’t know…grooming me for something else. I shied away from it as much as possible, but like I said…something about him was so painfully alluring that my heart and mind wouldn’t let go.
His beauty was unavoidable. It poured uncontrollably out of every inch of his lean body. His smooth neck, leading up to his light blond hair, and his amazing chocolate brown eyes. His lips looked absolutely delicious in every possible way, and thoughts of kissing him entered my mind every time he turned his head away from me, giving me the opportunity to stare at his stunning profile. But just as my eyes began to roam over his slim teenage frame and his beautiful silk like surface…he would look back at me and smile. As though he had been alerted to my every dirty thought…and for some odd reason…I liked it.
“LOOK, Taryn!” Alec said as he brought over a small mechanical puppy. He pressed a button and it began to nod its head and bark in a high pitched robotic whine. It was a bit too loud and annoying for my tastes, but to Alec it was like the greatest show on Earth. He was giggling the entire time, and I just watched him wiggle as the puppy took a few steps forward and barked again. “If you put the doggy down, it can stand up on two legs too!”
“That’s great, Alec.” I said, patting his head a bit, and finding a small spot of dirt that I missed on his neck from before. I used my thumb to wipe it away and let him pull off to go find himself another toy. Trevor walked up with a grin, and sat down next to me on the in store bench. “We should be going soon. We can’t stay here all night. He’ll be wanting to buy stuff in a couple of minutes.”
“Hehehe, you can always say no.” Trevor answered.
“Yeah, and he can always scream louder. Believe me, it’s not something you want to see in person.” I smiled, and saw Trevor staring into my eyes. Deeply. So deeply that my smile faded, and a shudder of nervousness seemed to suddenly wash over my shoulders. His gaze could be so intimidating. It was like nothing else I had ever experienced. Almost frightening. I quickly turned my eyes away from him and looked elsewhere, hoping he hadn’t caught my reaction. Then…he spoke.
“So…you still thinking about my offer tonight, Taryn? I’d really like to see more of you. We can have so much fun if you’re willing to trust me…just a little bit.” His voice had softened to a seductive tone, and when I felt his hand move slowly to sit lightly on my leg. I jumped involuntarily.
“Actually, I don’t know. I mean…Alec is gonna be so tired after this. He’s practically putting himself ‘in the hole’ as far as his appetite is concerned, and all this running around is making it worse. Not to mention that he barely had any sleep last night, and if I don’t keep him out of the cold, he’s gonna get chills. Sooooo….yeah. We should really find a place where he can take a quick nap or something, and get back out on the…”
“Shhhh…you worry too much.” He said. And looked over his shoulder at the younger boy as he pranced from shelf to shelf, making a mess. “He looks just fine to me.”
“No, really…we might be out here for a while tonight, and I don’t want him running around using up what little energy he has in a toy store.” He kept looking me in the eye, and I kept trying to avoid the contact. Sighhhh…he was so damn cute about it though! It made me hard just being this close to him. How would that be? Actually finding a boy so amazing at my lowest point. Who knows? Maybe Trevor’s actually, like…an angel. God knows I need one right about now.
At first, I just sort peeked at him out of the corner of my eye, not wanting to really give in to his offer. I knew that in doing so, I’d be falling deeper into whatever trap he was setting up for me. And I didn’t want that. But when I saw him lean forward and grin, it caused me to grin a little bit myself. Trevor winked and said, “How about this? I’ve got ten bucks in my pocket, and that’s just enough for one of those mini stuffed pizzas that they have at this spot around the corner. It’s all yours but you have to stay put for a while and keep me company. Deal?”
“Sighhh…you don’t give up do you?” I asked him.
“Not when it comes to something that I really want, no.” He scooted a bit closer to me, and softly moaned, “I really want you, Taryn.”
My trembling hands nearly failed me as I nervously sprung to my feet, just to get enough distance away from him to breathe again. “Just…let me grab Alec, and we’ll go. Ok?”
“Alec will be fine right here. The store doesn’t close for hours. We’re not going far.” He said.
“What? Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not gonna leave my little brother in here all by himself.”
“Why not. Taryn, it’ll be ok. We’ll bring him back some pizza, and he’ll be all tuckered out by then. He can get some sleep.” My smile faded completely as I saw that he was actually being serious, and instead of even acknowledging the concept of abandoning my flesh and blood to go have pizza with some boy I just met…I just started to walk further away from him.
“I’ll just be a minute. I’ll get Alec…and then we can go.” I told him, easily brushing what he said off of my shoulders. I don’t care *HOW* gorgeous he is, I’m not leaving my brother behind. Not ever.
It took a few minutes to get Alec’s excitement down to a level that would allow him to actually put down the mini Godzilla figures and consider leaving the store. And even THEN he only agreed because of the rumbling in his tummy. But finally, after a bit of sweet talking, and a few firm yanks on his hand as he reached out to touch more noisy toys on his way to the escalator…Trevor and I finally got him out of his gadget filled paradise, and back onto Michigan Avenue.
Trevor didn’t seem to mind too much, but also didn’t bother paying Alec much attention. He was totally fixated on me. He couldn’t keep his eyes off of me, and something inside of me was just so flattered by that. It made me feel…I dunno…beautiful. Maybe not with the kind of beauty that HE possessed, but beautiful nonetheless. Alec pulled his hand away from me as he saw the big horse drawn carriages on the street, and instantly wanted to reach out and touch them. He could be so damn slippery when he wanted to be. Especially when I wasn’t paying attention. I instantly took hold of his hand again, “STOP, Alec! Don’t touch!”
The carriage driver smiled warmly at us, and he said. “It’s ok. He won’t bite.”
“Can I, Taryn??? Can I??? Can I???” He said, his little face almost tightened up to the point of tears again. Geez, as if I could actually say ‘no’ to something like that!
“Fine. Just…be careful. Ok?” And before I could even get the words out of my mouth, he was already running over to pet the animal, which dwarfed him in size. The carriage driver laughed as Alec’s adorability factor was running at an all time high, and I kept a close eye on him as Trevor lightly reached out to take a hold of my hand.
“It’s so refreshing to find someone with so much heart. It’s a rarity these days.” He said.
His touch was electric, but as much as I enjoyed it, I was holding hands with another boy in view of anybody and everybody that walked by. This was NOT allowed. NOT accepted. What would they think of me? Of us? I’ve already taken one beating over these disgusting feelings of mine, I’ll be damned if I curse myself even further by making a spectacle of myself. I gently pulled my hand away from his, but he held on for a second or two longer, making me work to get loose from his grip. And when I broke free, he giggled cheerfully.
“You’re so cute. You know that?” He said, and it caused me to blush.
“Look at his weiner!” Alec squealed loudly, and it caught me off guard as I thought he was talking about Trevor’s for a second. But when I turned around, the little boy was leaned over peeking under the horse to inspect its privates. “It’s bigger than my whole ARM, Taryn! Look!”
“Omigod! Alec, get AWAY from there!!! Hehehe!” I grinned, and went to retrieve him before he started touching things he wasn’t supposed to touch again.
“Bye, mister! Cool pony!” He shouted back.
“Why, thank you, munchkin!” He replied.
“Sorry, he can be a handful.” I told Trevor as I returned to his smile.
“So can I.” He said. I didn’t want to push, as it was already a huge favor for him to offer to buy us something to eat, but I had to admit, I was getting pretty hungry myself. That empty feeling in my stomach was starting to hurt a little, and I wouldn’t be able to quiet the growls for much longer. “Well…how about we go get that pizza, huh?”
“Um…ok. That sounds cool.” I said, trying to sound nonchalant about it all. But he could tell I was hungry. He could always tell.
He took us to a small place and got us a nice sized stuffed pepperoni and sausage pizza, loaded with cheese, and a buttery crust that literally melted in your mouth when you tasted it. Oh *WOW*…it was the best meal I’d had in DAYS, and while there were only six tiny pieces to it…they were each pretty filling. I could feel the ‘weight’ of it in my empty stomach, and it felt good. Alec kept getting sauce all over his face, as the slices were too thick for him to get his little mouth around them, but as long as I kept wiping his mouth for him every two or three bites, he managed to stay relatively clean. The two of us ravaged the food like hungry wolves, barely looking up from our paper plates and napkins.
I was already halfway through my second slice when I realized that we had been so involved with our food that we had completely forgotten about Trevor sitting across the table from us. He was smiling at me, and I suddenly felt like such a pig for not even offering him a piece. He DID pay for it, after all. I finished chewing a mouthful, and said, “Oh dude…I’m sorry. That’s so rude of me.” I pushed the plate forward, but he instantly pushed it back.
“No. Go on. Eat.”
“But…don’t you want any?”
“No thanks. I’m afraid that I’m not much of a pizza person. Not any more.” He smirked. “But it’s very filling. It should easily carry you two through the night. You know…just in case food is difficult for you guys to find later.”
I stopped chewing for a moment, still wondering just how much he knew about our current situation. I hadn’t really told him much, but…it’s not like we were homeless. We’re NOT homeless! We had a home, we just…can’t go back there right now. That’s all. “We’ll be fine.” I said, my pride presenting itself in full bloom. “Thanks for the pizza though. It was really nice of you to do that.”
“I could do so much more for you, Taryn. You know that, don’t you?” He asked.
“It’s ok. You don’t have to. We’re just…taking a little break from things. That’s all.” I took another delicious bite, the warm pizza massaging the hunger pains right out of my stomach. “We’ll be able to go home in a couple of days, so…”
“Home. Right.” He looked over at Alec, and this time took his own napkin to wiped Alec’s mouth for him. Then his eyes went right back to focusing on me. “So…why can’t you go back home? What happened?”
“It’s a long story.”
“I’ve got a LOT of time to kill, believe me.” He said.
His smile widened. “Centuries.”
I looked away from him to see Alec wiping his hand off on his shirt. “Ahhh, knock it off. Use your napkin. What did Mom tell you? Huh?” It was a short distraction, but Trevor didn’t withdraw his question. He was waiting on an answer. “Look, if it’s all the same to you…I’d just really rather not talk about it, ok? It’s just…not good for us to be at home right now.”
There was a pause between us, and I could almost feel a small bout of dizziness as it felt like his frozen stare was almost trying to force the information to leak right out of my head. I reached a hand up to rub my eyes, and the dizzy feeling went away, but I figured that it must just be a side effect from me not getting much sleep out here since I’ve been away. The streets aren’t the most comfortable place to catch up on your dreams. And that statement has more than one meaning, believe me.
“Taryn…what would you say if I told you that there was a way to leave all of your problems behind, tonight…tonight? IF you wanted to. What if I could give you…a gift…that could make all of this go away? The cold, the fear, the worry, the pain. A heart as beautiful as yours shouldn’t be suffocated by the problems you’re being forced to bear in this life. It can crush a boy’s spirit to even try…and I feel that you are much too ‘original’ to let that happen. You exist on such a higher plane than most…and you’re too innocent to even know it.”
“I don’t…I don’t understand.” I said, and he reached over to take a hold of my hand on top of the table, instantly making me uneasy again.
“A light as bright as yours needs to keep on shining, Taryn. Forever. You have to protect it so it doesn’t get snuffed out by the trials and tribulations of a cruel and unforgiving system of social torture. You’re better than that. So much better. Let me help you.”
“Help me? Heh…I don’t need any help. I told you…we’re fine. We’re going home…”
“…’In a couple of days’, yes I know. You said that already. But…” He sighed as I slowly began to slide my hand out of his grip again. Aware of the people around us who might…see. “…Taryn…I’m giving you a chance to maybe…find a life that doesn’t require you to run out of the house in the rain and sleep on the streets for a week straight. Something different. Something better.” He finally let go of my hand, but his eyes….his eyes revealed such a tenderness at that moment. As if helping me and Alec was all he ever wanted. Then he said, “You KNOW what’s waiting for you back at home…don’t you, Taryn?” The eeriness of his comment was unsettling but I didn’t answer. I couldn’t. “You know what’s waiting at home, and you know what’s waiting at school. It’s not going to just up and disappear, is it?”
“What are you doing?” I asked him, feeling so vulnerable in front of him that I could hardly get the words out. Offense moving in to protect me as best as it could from his words.
“The same things that you’re running from now are still going to be there when you get back. WORSE even. You’ll try to stand strong, but they’ll beat you down again and again until you crumble under the weight of it all. Believe me, I know. I’ve done a bit of running myself in my day, and it never solves anything. It just tires you out…making it harder to deal with it when it inevitably catches up to you.”
“I told you…we’ll be ok…”
“Really? Will you really be ok, Taryn? I mean…are you prepared to deal with the severe consequences you’re going to have to face when you go back home again?” He asked. “Are you?” And then, he dug even deeper into my already opened wounds. “Your pervert stepfather isn’t going to just forget, Taryn. Your ‘friend’, Jason, and his little squad of bullies aren’t going to forget either. They’re gonna damage you beyond repair once they get a hold of you again. And it’s gonna HURT! It’s gonna hurt more than anything you’ve ever experienced before in your life, and you’re not going to have a way out of it. Not without my help, you won’t.” I attempted to block him out, be he pressed forward even more aggressively than before. “How much longer do you think you have before the Chicago police start searching the streets for two missing kids from the suburbs? How much longer until they drag you back home by force and tell you to stay put? How much longer before the whole school finds out why you don’t have a girlfriend…don’t go to parties and school dances…and why you sit at home every night, trying to find reasons not to cry yourself to sleep over a loveless, lackluster life…?”
“How dare you….” I said, my voice trembling as the humiliation of it almost brought me to tears. “Who the fuck do you think you are?” Alec looked up from his pizza to see why I was cursing in front of him. He knew something was wrong. But Trevor didn’t want to stop. He knew what buttons to press. What screws to turn. He pried his way in, and he refused to leave.
“There’s going to come a time when you realize…that the life you once had, the one you worked so hard to build and maintain for yourself, is over, Taryn.” He said. “Every friend you ever had, or could ever have, is going to know the truth about you by the end of this week. The whispers have already begun. Plots are already being devised to knock you out of your position in the social order. You might think that the harsh stares in the hallway won’t matter all that much…but, trust me, they will. I guarantee it. The chances of you coming out of it without a scratch is very slim. But you already know that, don’t you?”
“When ‘Chuck’ finds out what you like and what you’re attracted to…he’s going to make sure that he gets what he wants. He’ll take it by force if he has to. No more little vacations into the streets for you and Alec. He’ll be one step ahead of you the next time your mom leaves town.”
“What is your mother going to say when SHE finds out? Huh? How will she react to the concept of her sweet little boy not being what he was raised to be? Huh?” Trevor said. “What would your father say, Taryn….if he were still alive?”
“FUCK YOU!!!!” I shouted out loud, pounding my fist on the table and getting instant attention from everyone in the whole park. That was all the offense that I could take! I slammed what was left of my slice of pizza down in the box, and grabbed a handful of napkins, quickly cleaning Alex’s face and hands, making him put down what he was eating. “Come on, Alec, we’re leaving.” I said, trying hard to keep my tears at bay. How did he KNOW this stuff??? What was he trying to DO to me???
“NO!!! You don’t get to talk to me! You don’t get to say another fucking WORD!”
Alec whined, “Tarynnnnnn…my pizza!”
“Put it down, Alec! We’re going!”
“But Tarynnnnn….” He whined louder, “…I’m HUNGRYYYY!”
“Stop! Leave it! I said we’re going and that’s final!” I had to actually smack the last slice out of his hand, and Alec instantly got mad at me, crossing his arms and refusing to move. I tried to pry him up from his chair, but he was fighting me on this. Finally, I pinched him hard on the arm and yanked him up by force! “COME ON!!! STOP BEING A *BABY*!!!”
“Owwwwww!!!! *NO*!!! I’M NOT A BABY!!!” He shrieked, now swatting his arms at me and kicking his feet in a bratty tantrum. “LEAVE ME ALONE!!!”
“Taryn…don’t.” Trevor said softly, but I just flashed him a dirty look and dragged Alec away from the park table. “Taryn…come on, I’m sorry. Ok?” I yanked Alec away from him, harshly tugging his arm as he fought hard with his 4 year old muscles to pull back from me. He was pulling with all his might, and I underestimated his ability to squirm away from me. He suddenly ripped himself out of my grip, and ran over to hide behind Trevor’s leg. Furious, I marched over there to retrieve him, but he expertly dodged me by keeping Trevor between us, almost sobbing now from the intense fear of me getting my angry hands on him. I straightened up as Trevor attempted to make peace, aggravated by Alec’s little fit. That little brat could get so MAD sometimes, out of nowhere. And when that happened, there was no reasoning with him whatsoever.
I glared at Trevor in a huff as I tried to entertain his apology just long enough to find a moment where I could catch Alec off guard. I’d get him away from Trevor if I had to sling him, kicking and screaming, over my fucking shoulder and CARRY him! He said, “Ok…I insulted you. I get that. And I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry? Psh! Whatever!” I said, and made a quick grab for Alec, who speedily ducked behind Trevor’s leg to further hide himself from me.
“I mean it, Taryn. Alright? I’m really sorry. I was being an asshole. Just…don’t leave. Ok?” Trevor said, and even though it sounded sincere, it did little to calm me down. “I just…I’ve been where you are now. I remember what it was like…thinking that everything is going to be ok. Thinking that it’s all gonna work out once you go back home. But it’s NOT, Taryn. It’s not.”
With Alec keeping a close watch on me from his hiding place, peeking out and clutching to Trevor’s pants leg as tightly as he could with his pouty little lips stuck out in my direction…I had no choice but to listen. “You don’t know anything about me, OR my life, so don’t pretend to.” I told him.
“I know. I know. You’re right.”
“Then why did you SAY that???” I asked him, my voice still trembling.
Trevor’s face softened a bit, and he quietly squatted down to detach Alec from his leg and look him in the eyes. “Alec? Why don’t you go play for a second, k? Right over there where we can both see you. Don’t wander.”
“He’s gonna be mad at me.” Alec pouted.
“Aww, no, baby. Nobody’s mad at you. Just go on over there and let me talk to your big brother in private for a minute, ok?” Trevor told him, and Alec peeked over at me again, still pouty. He would have come to me if I asked him to. Despite my angry pulling on his arm, he knew not to choose some stranger over his brother. But…just seeing the look on his face after I had scared him like that…I decided not to push him any harder. Like I said before. I needed Alec on my side. Because we were running low on money, and we still had three more days left to go. So I gave him a nod, and he let go of Trevor long enough to walk a few steps way from us…still looking back over his shoulder at me, just in case I ran over to snatch him up against his will.
“Stay where I can see you, Alec!” I said, trying not to sound too upset.
He looked at me for a second, and then he said, “Mmkay…”
I looked back at Trevor, and he was giving me such a look of concern. “I had the same problem once too, you know? And I thought that I could just go home and make things better. Make them work right again. Go back to school and pick up where I left off. But…I really wish that I hadn’t. I really wish that I could have kept some of that faith in fairness and friendship and family. But it’s gone. They suffocated it right out of me.” He said. “You have no idea how much it hurt to lose the friends I used to have. Or how badly my older brothers teased me when they found out about me. Locking me in closets, beating me up in the backyard, dumping water on me while I was sleeping…and the kids at school were even worse. It gets to a point where you don’t want to fight back any more. And after a while…you begin to realize that you don’t have any fight left.”
Trevor seemed so sad at that moment, but he kept his eye contact, and he did his best to make me feel better. I just didn’t know if I wanted to feel better. I didn’t know what ‘feeling better’ was going to mean. Not yet, anyway. “I don’t understand what you want from me, Trevor. Why are you following me? What is this all about?”
“I’m following you…because I have been so empty inside without that…that light inside. Something to tell me that the world isn’t total shit and that people still have some kind of heart within them. The idea that true ‘angels’ still exist in this world. I feel like I’m losing that belief so fast, and one day…I’m just not going to give a damn about anybody any more.” He said, moving a step closer. “I have gone for soooo long without seeing that light in another person. And I couldn’t even catch a glimpse of that beauty ANYWHERE else…until I saw it in your eyes. Seeing you on the Pier…it was the first time in forever that I felt much of anything, Taryn. Somehow, a piece of you…is restoring a piece of me. And that little shining light deserves to be preserved. For all eternity if possible.”
I felt a tear run down my cheek, but as he reached up to wipe it away for me, I beat him to it. And I backed up a step or two from him. “Trevor…I don’t know what you think…I mean…I don’t…”
“Shhhh…” He whispered. “…Don’t go home, Taryn. There’s nothing left for you there but pain and heartache. I’ve personally experienced what intense suffering like that can do to a person over time. Let me help you.”
“You can’t help me, Trevor.”
“Yes, I can. Believe me. I can give you a gift that will still be shining brightly long after their lights have been extinguished. If you’ll let me.”
I was at a loss for words, Trevor’s brown eyes almost seemed to glow somehow as they stared into my own. I was so close to doing it. So close to giving myself over to what he was saying. But my hesitation saved me, as I heard noises coming from the street corner next to us.
Alec had found himself a rather deep puddle to play in, and was jumping off of the curb, stomping his feet down as hard as he could to splash himself. “Doosh!” He said, making noises with every splash. Was he CRAZY? It’s freezing out here! He wants to get WET now? “Doosh!!!”
“Alec! Don’t play in the puddle! You’re gonna get sick!” I yelled over to him.
“Um…I’m not.” He said innocently, while OBVIOUSLY standing ankle deep in a big dirty puddle of water. He’s not a very good liar at all.
I turned back to Trevor, and with a slight quiver in my gut, I started to back away from him. “I’m sorry…but I can’t. Me and Alec…we’re going home. I’m sorry…” I told him.
He quickly hurried out of the water. “I’m NOT!” He squealed. Arrgh! If only he could sit still for FIVE fucking minutes!
Trevor was naturally disappointed, but he didn’t persist any further. I think something in him knew that pressing me any harder was going to somehow push me further away at that point. So he stopped, and he let me go. But not before saying, “Take care of yourself, Angel. Maybe we’ll bump into each other again before you go back.”
“Umm…I dunno. Maybe.” I said, and Trevor gave me a bit of a lopsided grin. It was almost enough to make me smile back at him. But I held it in. I didn’t want him to see it.
I moved to take Alec by the hand again, looking at his pants, shoes, and socks, as they were soaking wet…almost to the knee. Trevor called out to us. “You know…not that you need the advice or anything…but instead of trying to find a dry place to sleep outdoors at night, you might do better spending a little bit of cash to get on the red line train. You can catch the subway on Chicago Avenue by the McDonald’s and YMCA building.” He walked over to us, and took my hand to shove the change from the pizza we ate into my palm.
“Trevor, no…you don’t have to…”
“Take it. Go on. I don’t need it. Trust me.” He smiled warmly. “You and Alec get on the train, take it all the way North to Howard Street, then walk over to the other side of the tracks, and take it coming back South to 95th Street. It’s almost a two hour trip from end to end. Nobody will bother you in between stops. You can get some sleep, Alec can entertain himself by looking out the window…you’ll be warm, dry, and transferring from Northbound to Southbound trains won’t cost you any extra money.” I looked into his eyes for a moment, still lost as to why he would even bother doing all of this for us. But as I heard Alec sneeze and wipe his nose on his sleeve, I knew that I was going to have to get him out of those wet shoes and someplace warm and dry soon. So I took the money, and without thinking…I gave Trevor a loving hug around the neck.
“Thank you, Trevor. You have no idea how much this means to me. To both of us.” I said, and he began to hug me back.
“It’s ok, Taryn. Just remember where to find me if you ever need me.” He said. “You remember where, right?”
I sniffled a little as I let him go. “Buckingham Fountain…nine o’clock.”
“Good memory.” He grinned. “Go on. Go. You look tired. You can catch a train every fifteen minutes, give or take.” He said, and we waved to him as we walked off towards the subway station.
“Bye, Trevor…” Alec waved.
“Be good, little one. I’ll be seeing you again real soon. You can count on it.” Trevor replied with what sounded like an evil smirk, but when I turned back to look for him…he was gone.
How does Trevor do that?
Alec and I used Trevor’s few dollars and one of my own to get on the train. It was only a few minutes before the light of the next train was visible at the end of the tunnel. Alec, forever curious, kept looking over the edge, and I had to keep pulling him back to make sure that he didn’t get too close. Then, as the train approached, I actually picked him up in my arms and held his legs as he flopped his arms over my shoulder. It was as if his exhaustion had kicked in all of a sudden, and he laid his head on my shoulder as his legs wrapped around my waist. His wet feet felt like ice cubes on my back, even through my shirt, but I held onto him tight until we got on board and found a seat.
I put Alec down, and removed his shoes and socks, rolling his pants legs up past the wet part. There was a little heating vent by the window, and I sat Alec down next to me so he could feel it. The train began to move, and despite the noise of the train and a loud computer voice announcing each stop…it all mellowed out into a soft, subtle, murmur after a short while. I was thankful that Alec leaned over to rest his head on my chest and fall asleep so fast, as I was afraid to go to sleep while he could still get himself into mischief. I made sure to wrap my arms around him so that he wouldn’t be able to wrestle himself out of my embrace without waking me up first. He was hard to look after sometimes, but he was my baby brother. I’d do anything to keep him safe. Anything.
As the train lulled me to sleep…I thought about Trevor’s words, and I wondered…would things get worse when I went back? When I really gave it some more thought, I had absolutely no plan on how I was going to get back to my life once the week was over. Or even explain why I was gone. Chuck would hurt us for sure once he got his grimy hands on us again. He’d punish me worse than ever for running away from home. And my mom would back him up on it. She backs him up on everything. How was I gonna ever go home? How was I going to protect Alec? And now that Jason hates my guts…he’s going to tell everybody that will listen that I’m gay. Everybody. The whole school will be laughing behind my back…when they’re not beating me within an inch of my life. Everything that I had…everything that I was…it’s gone. It’s all gone.
And my lasts thoughts, before practically fainting from the combination of fatigue and a full stomach…were…
“Maybe Trevor’s right. Maybe…going home isn’t an option for me any more……”
And if I can’t go home…where else would I go?
Where else would I go?