Chapter Two

 For Deeze who simply couldn’t wait any longer.
Merry was in the middle of a snarky “yeah, right” when Quinn kissed his cheek and vanished. Stunned, Merry blinked, rubbed his eyes, and looked around. He reached out and felt the air where Quinn had just been. Nothing. He looked around again.


Silence reigned supreme save for the angry sound of someone’s lawnmower in the distance. He dared to lean back a little, his side and back killing him after Rick’s beating, and look down the expanse of the wrap-around porch. Nothing. He looked down the other side of the porch. No Quinn.

“Quinn, come on. Where’d you go?” The distant lawnmower fell silent and the sound of a weedwacker started up.

“Quinn?” Silence, except for the distant whir of the weedwacker.

“Quinn!” The old woman who lived across the street looked up from her gardening, a sour look painting her face as she glared at him.

Quinn had vanished. As in disappeared, vamoose, gone. Like, totally, not here! Had Merry imagined that Quinn saved him, walked him home, and...and...? He rubbed his cheek where Quinn had...had...kissed him! Holy crap!

Merry was many things. Shy, spineless, a geek of humongous proportions, not to mention gay, but he was not crazy. Maybe Rick had knocked him unconscious and his brain had rattled so hard against his skull he was delusional. This had to be some imagination of his figment caused by trauma. Yeah. Trauma sounded good.

Then his cheek began to tingle. He rubbed it and the tingle deepened. He rubbed his cheek harder as if to wipe the tingle away, and looked at his fingertips. Nothing.

Okay, he was not nuts. He grabbed his backpack and made the mistake of jumping to his feet. He reached for the porch railing as dizziness and nausea assailed him.

Had Quinn really kissed him? Nope. Not possible. Quinn wasn’t gay. There was no way that Quinn had kissed him. No freakin’ way. The only explanation was trauma. Plain and simple. Rick knocked him out and this was plain old trauma. He could be delusional from trauma. Right? Right?

He fished the house key from his jeans pocket and stared at it in the palm of his hand. First fingering the solid metal, and then squeezing the key tightly, he told himself again that he wasn’t crazy. He fed the key into the lock, turned the door handle, and pushed through the front door. It creaked softly on its hinges as he closed it behind him and leaned back against it. “I am not nuts,” he said softly.

Merry's California bungalow was small, dark, and dingy, and hadn’t been cleaned since his mom left three years ago. It was just him and his dad now. Well, really it was only him. His dad worked long hours at the concrete plant, and then went out drinking with the guys. He was rarely home before midnight, and equally rarely, sober.

Afternoon sunlight filtered through the gap between the curtains illuminating the dust motes floating on the air, and only served to remind him of his absolute isolation. At nearly seventeen years of age, his life had become one of perfect loneliness.

He slid down the door and came to rest on his sore buttocks. Rick had literally kicked his ass. His forehead came to rest on his knees. His cheek tingled again and he rubbed it absently as the first tear fell. He’d come to hate his life so.

After an indiscernible time he pulled himself to his feet, the soreness from the beating taking hold, and trudged down the short hallway to his ten-by-ten-foot bedroom. Small as it was, it was his only haven. He kept it spotless and the ancient wood floor polished. Everything in it was his. Everything in it was safe. Including him. He dropped his backpack on his twin bed, reached for the neatly folded pajamas under his pillow, and trudged the short six feet down the hall to their small bathroom. He would take a shower, down some Tylenol, nuke some frozen food of zero nutritional value for dinner, and go to bed. Screw that it was only four in the afternoon.

He set the pajamas on the lid of the commode, undressed and surveyed the damage. The bruises were already turning an ugly shade of purple. Great. More fodder for Rick to hassle him over in gym. He pressed on his lower back with a flat hand and it hurt. Bad. He turned his back to the mirror and looked over his shoulder, but the small mirror over the sink was too high on the wall to show him anything. Screw it. He turned back to the mirror and peered at his cheek. Though it continued to tingle, there was no evidence of Quinn’s kiss. Yep, trauma. Has to be.

He took a hot shower, their small water heater affording him but ten minutes of warmth. He dressed slowly, feeling better now that he was clean and the Tylenol afforded him a modicum of relief. He threw his dirty, grass-stained clothes in the hamper, and headed to the kitchen.

Pizza Bites sounded good enough. He tossed them onto a plate, shoved it into the microwave oven, and stared out the window over the sink as the sound of the microwave droned on. Their small backyard looked wild in the twilight, overgrown to the point of being a veritable jungle. He’d watched his mother through this window more times than he could count, and could almost see her lithe, ghostly figure tending the garden. She’d loved her bright pansies, crimson bougainvillea, and tender ferns.

Miss you, Mom, he thought wistfully.

Her ghost looked back at him with a wink and mouthed “I love you.”

The microwave beeped. He removed the plate and carried it to his room. He glanced through his homework as he ate, found nothing he wanted to do, and was ahead in all his classes anyway. He swallowed the last, bland Pizza Bite and did something he rarely did. He didn’t bother to take the plate to the kitchen. He set it on his deskrather, the four milk crates that made up his desk. He tried to stretch but gave up when pain assailed him. With a sigh, he turned the overhead light off and climbed into bed.

As the night wore on, he became more and more convinced that he had imagined Quinn saving him from Rick, walking him home, and kissing him. His cheek tingled again and he rubbed it, certain it was his imagination acting up again. He yawned, rolled onto his side, and pulled the covers over his head. He hated his life. He hated his loneliness.

“Ye no longer be alone, little fella. I give ye me word.” Merry shot up in bed. “Quinn?”

Chapter One                                                 Table of Contents                                             Chapter Three
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