Chapter 34: Peace of MindMature

Narrator: Junior Archvale

 

"Dude, do you want to take this outside or somethin'?"

"Damn straight, I want to take this outside!" I yelled at him.

"Lead the way, douchebag," he said with a grin on his face.

It wasn't long before I slammed the patio door shut behind us. I was surprised at how my anger had manifested without another tear. I guess my eyes had watered enough in the hot-boxed bathroom.

"Fine," he said. "Give me a piece of your mind, if you must."

"No, it's mutual peace of mind that I'm after, Adam. First of all, I'm sorry I had to get in the way of your --"

"No worries, dude, she made me cum like four times before you got in the door."

"I didn't need to know that," I told him, making sure my face was devoid of emotion. "Why weren't you wearing a condom?"

"So, you got a good look at --"

"Why weren't you wearing a condom?" I repeated louder.

"Coitus interruptus, man. Pull it out before anything bad happens."

"Irresponsible," I seethed.

"Look, man, you're not my Dad."

"If I were your Dad, you'd be bruised and belted!" I bellowed. "You didn't need to hot-box the Penningways' bathroom just to break them up."

"Hey, I gotta have my fun somehow."

"Well, I thought I told you this wasn't that kind of party. I assumed you'd use your expertise in social camouflage and eccentric interests to let yourself indulge in the conversations and games your regular social circle doesn't include."

"I thought it became my kind of party the moment a bowl of lambskin condoms was put out."

"Kieth wouldn't have put those out if it wasn't for you and Leslie."

"I wasn't the one who made them play 'Jack U Off'."

"True, I do get part of the blame on that one. But, honestly, I should have stopped you from spiking the punch."

"And blaming it on Brent?"

"Yeah. Part of me thought you might not behave yourself, and thus I invited you anyways for my own twisted sense of amusement," I admitted. "But I can torture myself with guilt for that later. Right now, I want to know..."

"She likes you, man. She really does. That could have easily become a menage a trois."

"Shut it, Adam. I'm perfectly aware of her feelings for me," I lied. "Unlike you, though, I couldn't rationalize making Brent into a pre-marital cuckold."

"The bastard deserves it. Cameron, even the baby Jesus knows Brent hasn't been faithful. You can see it in his eyes, let alone the fact that his eyes are wandering."

"That's your rationalization, fine. But it never worked for me. That's why she came to the conclusion that I was --"

"Not interested, or gay. But I told her how you feel."

"You had no right to!" I protested. "Besides, I don't feel that way anymore. Not now that I've seen beyond what I once saw."

"Good."

"Good?" I was surprised. "Wasn't this just a one-night stand for you?"

"If it was, I'd have told her about my rock band. But I didn't use any superficial crutches to--"

"Who took your swimsuit off?"

"Her. Both times."

I rolled my eyes, "So you weren't making all the moves."

"Far from it," he said.

"So you see something permanent?"

"As close to permanent as someone like me can see," he smiled awkwardly. "If you mean, do I want to be her boyfriend? Yes, I do. I thought that was obvious by the fact that I played the sympathy card in the bathroom."

"I assumed you just did that because she was naked."

"You don't play your sympathy card when a person is naked?"

"I'm not saying that. I was quite sympathetic, I just felt like scaring her out of the bathroom first, that's all."

Adam laughed, "You looked green with envy, man. I thought you were gonna try to slug me."

"I'd have gotten compersive before I'd have gotten remotely jealous," I teased. "Though, I swear, I felt neither."

"Dude, you suppress too many of your bad feelings. Anger and envy are perfectly healthy. What's it that personality profile gave you a high count of? Over-controlled hostility?" He laughed. "You even put yourself in a relationship where you're not the dominant lover. Are you afraid of what you might do?"

Yes. "This isn't about me, it's about you. Now, are you coming back with me or are you busing downtown to the hospital?"

He sighed, "I'm not coming back with you, CJ. I don't belong in Crystal's dorm room."

"Hah hah, not funny," I scowled. "Are you taking her to the hospital? Because I think things are going to be over, any moment, with her and Brent. Especially since the word is out that he nearly shoved his tiny dick down Crystal's throat."

"What the fuck?"

"She was trying to distract him, but he got out of hand."

"Oh, so that he wouldn't be in the bathroom with you, throwing punches at me?"

"Yeah," I said. "Well?"

"Well what?"

"Are you going to the hospital with her?"

"Of course I'm going to the hospital."

"Adam, she's already lost her mother," I added, "She's probably going to lose her step-father tonight. And she's definitely about to lose Brent. You're gonna be all she's got."

Adam gulped. "Time to man up, I guess."

"If you hurt her," I threatened. "If you do to her what you-know-who did to you and what you've done to oh-so many... you'll be answering to more than just me."

"Ooh, that wasn't necessary man... and I had no idea you were capable of such venom. Wow."

I slid open the patio door, "Get inside now, and leave me so that I can repress the repugnant notion of a threesome from my mind."

He left me alone in the windy night air. That's when the tears returned, and I found myself deep in thought, wondering if I was safe yet. Wondering what Monday would hold for us. Wondering when I'd see Crystal next.

Penny's voice was in my ear before I'd heard her or the patio door, "The smoke is almost gone. That was very brave of you."

I turned around, just in time to stop her from touching my shoulder. I didn't want to feel that warmth from her, that bitter unrequited affection I'd dare not call love. I was hoping it would go away, in time, and Crystal would be the only one.

"What's wrong?" she asked me.

My voice broke with sadness and chagrin, "I'm dealing with it. I promise I won't let it ruin our friendship. Not now."

"Oh," she said, surprised and forlorn. "I assumed you'd gotten over it, considering... well, it was rather quick especially for you."

"I know," I said, sniffling. "I'm finding it all quite hard to reconcile." My dirty blond hair blew loosely in the wind, my hair tie on my wrist.

"Well, I know this won't help, but Joshua is willing to let you sleep over..."

"Hah, not after what's happened on that guest bed."

"...as an alibi."

My eyes widened, "Ohhh..."

"Yeah," Penny said. "More than a little disconcerting."

"I don't think I have a choice."

She smiled.

"If I don't, I know her night will be torture."

Penny's smile vanished and her brow furrowed tightly. Clearly, she'd come to a different conclusion than I had. She opened her mouth to speak, but inhaled with a shudder instead before speaking. "Be careful, CJ."

"Hey, now, spending the night doesn't mean I'm going to --"

"Is that what your sister said the first time?"

I stared, lips tight and nostrils flaring. "I am not who my sister was."

"You know she wants more than just a warm body next to her, CJ."

"Of course I know that! Don't patronize me, Penny. It's all about where I draw the line."

"Where are you going to draw the line? Sooner or later, she's going to learn your dirty little secret."

"Hah," I laughed. "You think I'm worried about that, or even ashamed? That's probably the only good part of my depression, if that's even what caused it."

"Depression causes a lack of sexual interest, as well," she reminded me.

"Well, that explains you, Edward and Joshua, now, doesn't it?" I scoffed.

"I suspect that I'm the only genuinely depressed one of the three. Only one in five people suffer from depression, and not necessarily as early in their life as us. Joshua is simply abstinent and brimming with propriety, while Edward struck me as a closet emo, if such a thing exists."

"That's an apt description of Eddy."

"So, you're going to call your folks and tell them you're spending the night here?"

"Yes, Penny. It's the only thing that will give me true peace of mind."

"Adam's already left, so that leaves me riding the bus all alone. It's a shame, I would have enjoyed your company. You missed out on all the gaming tonight, have you lost interest?"

"No," I assured us both. "I was just... distracted. And I'm still not sure whether I regret bringing Adam or not."

"Why did you invite someone like him? I don't even know why you're friends with him."

"We're nearly complete opposites, and that's how our friendship works. A synthesis of opposing personalities. It's... refreshing."

"What, to be a rock star wannabe man whore vicariously?"

"He thinks in ways I don't. And I'm his moral compass when he wants one. I mean, not that he's psychopath with no conscience..."

"And he's bisexually attracted to you..."

"Okay, that I hate about him. And I'm never sure if it's just his crude sense of humour or if he's genuinely interested -- not that it matters, either way!"

"Did you invite him to stir things up? Maybe even to dislodge Brent completely from Joshua's social circle?"

"Partly, yes. But mostly I was hoping he'd follow his less-indulged interests and be a social chameleon. That's what compulsive liars like him are good at, fitting in with any crowd so long as nobody realizes he's sometimes full of pure shit."

"Stop swearing like a Bene Gesserit," Penny chided.

"Are you even going to read that series?"

"No, every other book in it has a phallus on the front cover..."

"Judge. Book. Cover," I said.

"Oh, c'mon, I have enough reading for school as it is."

"Well, something tells me I won't be getting my books back from Leslie anytime soon. Then again, Adam is in the picture."

"CJ, do you actually believe Adam is going to stay in the picture?"

"Yes, I do. There are things to know about Adam that aren't so obvious. His shell is shallow and superficial, but his core is deep, romantic and sincere. Except he's only ever crawled out of his shell once, and he got hurt real bad."

"And isn't Leslie the kind of girl who'll hurt him? A grieving orphan with a drug habit? Probably living off social assistance until she's old enough to get whatever life insurance there may be? She may choose to grieve by making a pattern, a habit, of jumping from man to man."

"I guess he'll just have to make sure she falls deeply into love with him."

The End

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