Chapter Three


Merry looked around in the dark of his room. “Quinn?” Nothing. “I am not nuts,” he whispered with conviction as he lay down and pulled the covers over his head again.

~*~

Merry woke the next morning to an overcast day. He stretched and stilled when pain from yesterday’s beating shot through him. With a groan, he slowly pushed the covers back and got out of bed.

He ate a bowl of Fruit Loops, the irony not lost on him. Sometimes he wanted to tell his dad he was gay just to see the inevitable shock on his face. A small snort escaped him at the thought. HIS. DAD. WOULD. FREAK.

Merry’s cheek tingled and he rubbed it with purpose. It tingled more, feeling like small pinpricks on his skin. Tenuous as it was, it was the only evidence of Quinn’s kiss and, in a way, it kept him from believing he’d totally lost it. If his mom were still around, he could ask what she thought about it. He’d always been able to talk to her about anything. He looked out the kitchen window at the backyard, now shrouded in fog.

“Did you leave because I told you I was gay?” he whispered to the window. When the view from the window offered no answer, he headed to his room.

The ancient, familiar fear built as he dressed for school and thought of Rick. Rick would probably kill him after what happened yesterday.

He studied his reflection in the bathroom mirror as he brushed his teeth. Large brown eyes looked back at him from beneath mousy brown curls. He’d never seen a more boring face in his life. A light shade of plumb encircled an eye and he looked tired. He contemplated shaving the whole five whiskers he sported on his chin. Every guy he knew shaved, even the freshmen, but not him. Puberty was taking its agonizingly sweet time with him. And he hadn’t grown an inch since ninth grade. Typical. What is short on top of everything else? He rinsed his mouth and ran a disposable razor over his chin not bothering to lather his skin with soap.

~*~

He made it to school safely, and dared to hope that Rick would be absent today. He passed through the doors of what he'd come to regard as his own private purgatory, rounded the hallway corner, and stopped dead in his tracks, his hopes dashed. Rick leaned against his locker and laughed with his friends. Crap. There was no way was he going to his locker now. He’d go to class with a full backpack. He turned on a heel to make a hasty retreat, but not fast enough.

“Hey, Merry Fairy!”

Double crap! Merry bolted and made it to the door of his AP English lit class as Rick grabbed the back of his shirt. Panic stung his spine and terror filled his veins turning his bones to liquid. This was it. He was going to die.

Quinn, please be close by. His prayer went unanswered.

Rick dragged him to the drinking fountain and held his face to the stainless steel bowl while someone turned the water on. Merry choked and gagged as he fought Rick’s grasp, and tried not to drown. Students walked by and teachers were never around when Rick terrorized him. No one ever came to his rescue except Quinn.

Merry’s hair and the front of his clothes were soaked by the time Rick released him. He gasped and wheezed, desperately gulping air as fast as he could.

Rick smacked the back of his head hard. “There ya go, fairy. All nice and clean.” Rick walked away laughing his ass off.

Traitorous tears pricked Merry’s eyes, but he refused to cry as he headed to class.

~*~

Quinn held Merry’s face gently as he kissed his bruised eye and each tear away. “All be right now, little fella.” Merry melted into Quinn’s comforting touch, and wished he could stay there forever. He was safe. Quinn leaned in and—

“Mr. McDaniel!”

Merry’s head shot up from the desk. He’d fallen asleep in Calculus. He wasn’t sure if he was more startled by Mr. Williams’ shout or disappointed to realize Quinn’s comfort had only been a dream.

“Are you back with us?”

Merry wiped his mouth, hoping he hadn’t drooled in his sleep. “Sorry, sir—”

“What is the Pythagorean Theorem?”

Mr. Williams was being a jerk. It was a question for an eighth grader. “The theorem to determine the area of a right-angled triangle and the equation is A squared plus B squared equals C squared.”

Mr. Williams moved on to the next vict—er, student.

~*~

Merry stowed his books in his locker and thought about ditching his fourth period class. His clothes were still damp and he felt drained. This morning’s Rick episode had sapped his energy and left him depressed. He hadn’t seen Quinn all day either and that made him feel even more depressed. He needed to see him, if for no reason other than to reassure himself that Quinn was real. His one class with Quinn was gym, but he usually saw him in the hallways before then—always surrounded by a bunch of giggling girls. A light bulb went on in his head. Girls. Girls. The final bell rang overhead telling him he was late for class and he sped off shoving the horrible thought from his mind.

~*~

Merry scrounged for change and managed to pull together two dollars and twenty-five cents from his pockets. His dad hadn’t left lunch money for him this morning, which happened more and more frequently these days. He had enough for a slice of pizza and an apple. He’d forego the juice and drink water, and added an empty cup to his lunch tray.

“Two dollars thirty-five cents,” the cashier announced.

“It should be two-twenty-five.”

“Ten cents for the cup.”

Merry handed the cup over with his coin and headed to an empty table in the corner of the cafeteria. He tried to analyze the events of the past twenty-four hours objectively as he sat and ate alone. Quinn saved him from Rick. Quinn walked him home. Quinn kissed his cheek. Whoa, whoa, whoa, back up. Quinn said he knew Merry wasn’t a fairy because he—Quinn—was one, then he kissed Merry’s cheek and...and... vanished.

Then there had been Quinn’s promise in the dark of his bedroom. Where was Quinn when Rick nearly drowned him in the water fountain this morning? Merry’s anger rose, and then ebbed as quickly as it had risen leaving him feeling deflated and lonely again. In all fairness to Quinn, he could have dreamed Quinn’s promise.

He tried again with a simple review of the facts: Quinn saved him, walked him home, said Merry wasn’t a fairy but that he wastotally weird—and kissed his cheekkind of, well, really cool weird—then vanishedseriously, insanely weird. And his cheek tingledweirdest of all.

After the objective analysis, Merry concluded that the probability that he’d lost his mind was high. Could one lose his mind from a beating? From living in terror five days a week? From shyness? From aloneness and loneliness? From being gay? Merry didn’t know, but all the weirdnesses were piling up and definitely didn’t bode well for him.

~*~

When Merry changed back into his clothes after gym, Rick threw him into the showers fully dressed. His clothes, shoes, and jacket were soaked. Even his backpack was wet. It would be a cold walk home and a fitting end to another loser day in the life of Merry the Fairy. His teeth chattered all the way home.

~*~

He took a hot shower in a futile effort to get warm, dried off, and went to his room. He tugged a pair of jeans on, buttoned them with shaking fingers, and thought for the millionth time that it hurt like hell when Rick beat him up. He whacked his face with an awkward hand as he threaded aching arms into a sweatshirt and pulled it over his head. His limbs were user-unfriendly in the extreme, his lack of coordination a permanent affliction. Moments like this made it hard to stifle the self-loathing that whispered a constant, dull roar in his mind.

Making his way to the end if his bed, he sat gingerly, and lifted his backpack onto his milk-crate desk. When he unzipped it, his heart sank. Everything in it was wet. His World History paper, his report for Physics, and the draft of his English essay were smeared blue with ink. Fury zinged his spine and burst like bright fireworks in his mind, and he cursed Rick at the top of his lungs. He shot to his feet and dumped the contents on the floor, viciously shaking the bag until the last pen fell.

“I hate you!” he shouted at the ceiling.

He’d endured Rick’s reign of terror for three, going on four, years and it had to stop. It had to or he’d never graduate high school in one piece. Feeling defeated, bereft, and ignoring the tears that fell, he headed to the kitchen to forage for food. He was starving.

 He opened a can of ravioli and ate it cold out of the can as he stared out the kitchen window. The grey miasma that filled their backyard mirrored the color of his day, his mood, his whole damn life.

Swallowing the last bite, he rinsed the can, peeled the label off, and threw it in the recycle bin. Turning back to the window, he glimpsed a five-dollar bill on the kitchen counter. Crap. He'd been preoccupied with thoughts of Quinn and hadn't seen it this morning. Wearily, he shoved it into his jeans pocket.

Movement beyond the window caught his eye as he washed the spoon. The dense fog swirled and heaved, then slowly coalesced to form a vortex. He'd never seen fog do that before. As tiny lightning permeated the grey in every color of the rainbow and fear began to creep into his veins, Quinn emerged from the mist.


Chapter Two                                           Table of Contents                                            Chapter Four
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