Chapter 13: To Console And Lose ControlMature

Narrator: Junior Archvale


Joshua's a good actor, but I had gotten tired of comments that compromised my sexuality, and I was sure some of his resentment extended towards my crass setting of the stage. I felt insulted, to be compared to one so cold as Mr. Darcy.

And part of me even thought I misrepresented myself by playing "Jack U Off". A virgin preacher's kid subtly tells his friends that he's a lesbian in a man's body. Yeah, Edward won't be talking to me for a week. Furthermore, I shouldn't have done it in a way that flaunted the concept of friends with benefits, lust without love. That's not me at all!

I stumbled up the stairs, in a way that might suggest I'd had some of the punch. But I hadn't. And wouldn't. Besides, I knew that she was up here somewhere.

I was brooding, now. I wanted an instrument in my hands. I longed to feel a moist double-reed between my lips and the holes of my bassoon beneath my fingers. I knew, as my fingers danced against invisible nothingness at my sides, that I'd have to settle for other diversions.

Soon, Ashley would be finished setting up the two sets of Dance Dance Revolution weight-sensitive pads and the second TV running a Smash Brothers video game of some sort in the basement. Aside from the users of that, it would also prompt a small group of us, roleplayers, to pull out our Nintendo Dual-Screens, and play some Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates. A game I'd gotten them hooked on, with fine multiplayer functions.

But I knew that'd involve Penny. And I had... thoughts to sort out. So did she. Clearly, she didn't want to put our friendship in any more risk than I'd already put it in. Though she hadn't answered my request, I had the nagging feeling that it would be ignored.

I suppose maybe that's why my instincts had drawn me up here. Ashley wasn't here to comfort her. And of all the somber faces I'd seen so far, hers was surely the worst. Kieth had been going for revenge, without the foresight to think that Greg wasn't necessarily single. And in his attempt to pull Greg's past out into the open and embarass him, he'd instead managed to rekindle their old relationship... and break apart another. Part of that was before our time. Their prior relationship had ended before Joshua and I began high school. By the time we did, Kieth was present for his senior year, which he spent as a kickbag and scapegoat of both the jocks and the administration.

It was the first semester of Grade 10 when I had met Ashley, Crystal, Greg, Brent and their friends. Greg was taking an extra year, Ashley and Crystal were in their last year, and Brent was nearly failing his way through high school. That was before Brent and Leslie became a couple. She was only in Grade 9 then. I didn't even know her. I don't think she'd found our clique, or dyed her hair, until the next year.

I found myself hanging out with seniors of our group, in the senior's lounge where I wasn't meant to be. This was because in the first two weeks of the semester, all my other friends were switched off my lunch period because of some horrible mess-up with the schedule of English classes. Loners attract bullies like flowers attract bees. So, I fell upon their good graces.

That was a time when I had more than a few ardorous crushes, all of which I suppressed. I stuck firm to the belief that I wasn't mature enough yet for a relationship. Maybe I was just overly cautious because my older brother, four years my senior, had gotten his girlfriend pregnant while I had been in Grade 8. I admit, Crystal held one of those crushes. And I had pushed it away the moment I noticed the bond she had with Greg.

And now more than a year later, I assured myself, as I walked down the hall upstairs in Joshua's house, that that had nothing to do with my urge to comfort her.

I walked past the open door of Kieth's bedroom, which was empty, and noticed a torn and crumpled poster of Orlando Bloom as Legolas from the recent Lord of the Rings movies. It had been discarded in the middle of his open doorway, in an angry fistful. I didn't realize until later that I had probably precipitated the poster's demise.

Instead, I was thinking of last Halloween, when I came to school cloaked in a green tablecloth, with blunt arrows in a quiver over my shoulder and a wooden bow strung over my shoulder. Most students came to school in costume. And it was the only time in my high school career that I ever had a noticeable amount of girls staring at me, appraising me. Putting that long blond hair to proper use.

I heard the sobbing behind the bathroom door. I knocked as gently as I could, "Crystal, it's Cam, may I come in?"

No answer, just sobs.

I was worried. I didn't feel right leaving her alone in there. I felt certain she might harm herself. But instead, she did something very odd. She sang, through the door...

"It's a good thing tears never show in the pouring rain,
As if a good hting could ever make up for all the pain,
There'll be no last chance to promise to never mess it up again,
Just the sweet pain of watching your back, as you walk,
As I'm watching you walk away."

After a momentary decision between bass, tenor or risking the use of my falsetto, I joined in with a deep voice. It was Robyn's single, "Be Mine". It was so surreal, that sheer and utter coincidence. My favourite song. An obscure song. And she was singing it slowly, as a ballad.

"And now you're gone, it's like an echo in my head,
And I remember every word you said,
It's a cool thing you'll never know all the ways I tried,
It's a hard thing faking a smile when I feel like I'm falling apart inside."

"And now you're gone, it's like an echo in my head,
And I remember every word you said,
That you never were and you never will be mine,
No, you never were and you never will be miiine..."

She hummed the melody of the piano accompaniment that should have been there, bridging the gap, from that verse to next.

"For the first time there is no mercy in your eyes,
And the cold wind's hitting my face and you're gone,
And you're walking away..."

She opened the door, and pulled my fingers gently towards the edge of the bathtub where we sat, singing together in unison. I noticed her glass of punch on the counter of the vanity.

Then we continued, and I tried to anticipate every emphatic word and lilt she might choose that deviated from the original recordings.

"And I am helpless, sometimes,
Wishing's just no good.
'Cause you don't see me like I wish you would.
'Cause you never were, and you never will be mine.
No, you never were and you never will be miiine.
There's a moment to sieze, every time that we meet,
But you always keep passing me by.

You never were and you never will be miiine!

I saw you at the station.
You had your arm around what's-her-name.
She had that scarf I gave you,
And you got down to tie her laces.

You never were and you never will be mine,
No, you never were and you never will be miiine,
'Cause you never were and you never will be mine,
No, you never were and you never will be mine,

There's a moment to sieze, every time that we meet,
But you always keep passing me by...

No, you never were and you never will be miii-iiine."

Our makeshift song had come to an end. Somehow, we'd sung something beautiful. It was a talent I was always shy with, and her voice was probably better than mine even in her present state.

By instinct, I put an arm around her, and she rested her head against mine. Then, one hand of hers began to softly move its way through the hairs behind my ear after playing with the two free strands in front of my face. There was a time, last year, when that had very nearly become a morning ritual before class.

I got the feeling I was living in some sort of musical, where I was just a puppet, and someone else was pulling my strings. Affection was that someone. And I mistook it for just sympathy alone.

"It's so soft," she told me, her voice suddenly sounding quite hoarse, "Will you untie it for me?"

I smiled, bowed my head and pulled the two ties off that had been binding my ponytail. My hairs were thin, and blond, yet it was a blond that, unfortunately, was dirtying as I matured. But in the bright bathroom light, that didn't seem to matter. And it grew, unnaturally straight, making me the envy of many.

"It's all yours," I told her, as she began to run her fingers through my hair. And then I felt it, on my scalp -- faintly -- the warmth I'd felt before.

Our voices were hushed, both of us giving off a slow trickle of tears and catching sobs caught half-way out our throats.

"Are you well, CJ?" she asked me. "You're breathing fast."

"I'm fine," I assured the both of us, as I looked down at our legs.

She was wearing a dress, something I'd never seen her do since Ashley put all their prom pictures on Facebook. It was frilly, in layers, and I couldn't help but run my hand along it in the same rhythm with which she stroked my hair.

"Thanks for singing with me," she said. "It helped."

"Do you want to talk about what's happened?"

"No," she sobbed. "But I know I should."

"We men are a fickle sort," I had to admit. "And it seems candour and honesty weren't cornerstones of your relationship. At least, on his part."

"I had no idea," Crystal sobbed. "I never had the courage to ask. I was brought up to believe that you just don't talk about past lovers..."

"The truth is powerful when met with acceptance. Don't make him an enemy, just come to an understanding. He made a big mistake by denying his sexuality," I told her. "But part of him felt something for you, and so he probably feels horrible about what he did. You can't have the good without the bad."

"And you? Where's your bad? It seems chivalry is not quite dead."

"It's here. I promise. And I'm afraid to say it, but chivalry is indeed very much dead, for I am but a mere squire."

Crystal gave me the most bitter sweet giggle I've ever heard.

"Hmmm..." I said, thoughtfully. It never occurred to me that she might have wanted to know that the punch she was drinking was spiked. And I felt that I had nothing appropriately consoling to say, so I turned to face her. Raising myself, back straight but still seated, I kissed her gently upon her forehead.

But somehow her hand had found its way to my jawline. And though all it did was graze softly by, I felt like my head was caught in a forceful grip, that lowered us eye to eye.

She started to say something, but stopped herself. Or maybe she had been about to kiss me. I couldn't tell. Our faces were too close.

"What are we?" I whispered softly, unable to stop myself from breathing deeply. My fingers clung tightly to the ridge beneath the edge of the bathtub. In the brief silence that followed, I felt a haunting chill run through me. In the back of my mind, I wondered if this was a healthy circumstance to begin a relationship.

"Let's find out," she said, voice cold.

It was exactly what I'd done to Penny, except now I was on the receiving end. I could smell her tears, distinctly different from my own. She wore no perfume, as far as I could tell. Her tongue rolled, playful, and I had no idea what to do. I kept my eyes open, but found hers closed. Sensory deprivation? Taste...

I remembered, as a young child, licking a pollen covered tulip petal. It was like that, except warmer and livelier.

I remembered, one summer not long ago, smelling fresh sweat after canoing. It was so overwhelming, yet oddly not deplorable in the least bit. It was like that, except feminine.

As of a mysterious incense, blown away, so thin and faint...

I savoured the taste she left in my mouth. No smoker's breath, no minty freshness, no cologne and no coffee breath. It was wholesome, it was clean, and it was her.

She pulled away from me, after what felt like too much time had passed. And she smiled back at my baffled expression, "The rain has stopped."

And I noticed, then, that our cheeks were dry.

The End

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