Author: Samarium PM
Julius Carpenter has lived his life in a box, from which few people emerge and almost no one enters. His brother is the only person he trusts and his strive to be better than everyone he challenges is what keeps him going. His inferiority complex rules his life, and eventually, it rules everyone else's lives, too.Rated: Fiction T - English - Suspense/Family - Chapters: 54 - Words: 153,456 - Reviews: 62 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 04-15-13 - Published: 10-15-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3065888
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter 25: Just Say It, Julius
"Okay, so you have 'car insurance' on here twice," I commented, deleting the duplicate entry on the spreadsheet.
Desmond looked closer at the screen, realizing I was right. "I bet that was it."
I shook my head, pointing at the total. "Still two-fifty short..." I groaned, skimming through my brother's banking again, trying to figure out the error. "Why do you only have forty bucks a week for food on here?" I asked quietly. Desmond didn't answer me. I pretended to ignore it, secretly planning on adding another hundred when he wasn't looking. "God, this is a mess, Desmond," I complained, scrolling through fifty rows of terribly organized budgeting.
"I know, sorry, it's because I adjusted the formatting the other day to make room for my credit card."
I paused before looking up to him, staring over my shoulder at his computer screen. "You have a credit card?" He nodded. "Why? Ugh, you're going to have bad credit! How behind are you on the payments?"
He sensed his mistake, and mumbled, "Only a few months."
"A few months? Des..."
"I know, sorry –"
"You don't have to be sorry," I interrupted, "it's okay, we'll figure it out."
We continued to sort out Desmond's dilapidated finances, rooting out unnecessary expenses and trying to find some way to make up his credit card payments. He'd been secretly harbouring his despaired money problems for a few months before he'd given in and gotten me to help him. I'd noticed a recurring pattern with him these past few years: his desperation to seem independent preventing him from asking me for help. I had pointed this out to him only to receive a timid denial.
Since our birthday, he'd been withdrawing from me. After Mizuki kissed me, a modest fallout erupted, resulting in Desmond drunkenly telling her that I wasn't, in fact, gay. I was forced to tell her the truth. She abruptly stopped talking to me, stopped hanging out with us, stopped being my friend. Of course, I blamed Desmond, but I pretended not to, because I knew that my relationship with him was more important than my relationship with Mizuki. Not to mention the fact that we were all heavily intoxicated and I was sure that, had Desmond been sober, he wouldn't have said a thing.
We managed to balance his budget after an hour or so of sorting it out. I felt, once again, that I was the older brother in the relationship. While I was used to it, I still felt bad for Desmond. He was probably going to lose his apartment soon, due to the stupid credit card payments and car insurance eating up all his income. I tried to convince him that everything would work out just fine, but he still seemed to be stressed out.
"I'm making pasta for dinner," I told him as we lounged in front of the TV. "Want to invite anyone over? I only know the recipe for four servings, and Mikey and Bridget are stuck at school until Thanksgiving."
Des blushed. "No, that's okay."
I sighed, wondering why I'd expected him to say "yes, let's invite my friends from work!" or "sure, I'll invite the couple next door," in the first place.
We ate in awkward silence a half hour later. I knew my presence was the only thing making Desmond choke down half the plate of undercooked noodles I'd made in ten minutes. I wanted to spend as much time as I could with him, but school ate up a lot of my free time, being my last year and all. I also spent a lot of time avoiding Ed, who'd only grown more and more difficult to handle over the past few weeks. He'd been up to such shenanigans as stealing my notebooks and hiding them for sport, drinking so much he puked all over the room, masturbating obviously while I was in the room (often trying to study, at that), purposely sabotaging my computer files, and, in a drugged-up stupor, kicking me so hard in the gut that I threw up.
The dread of returning to my own personal circle of hell made me stay with Desmond a lot. Rather, it was more of a contributing factor, along with my desire to comfort him, to keep him sane.
But I didn't want him to become completely unable to function without me, so I limited myself to a few days at a time. I reluctantly returned to East Athena the next day, pissed off but not necessarily surprised that my desk drawers and closet hat been completely ransacked; clothes and papers covered my entire half of the room. I spent all my time that wasn't taken up by class that day cleaning it up, but I didn't see Ed until after dinner.
"Hey, jerkoff," he greeted me without taking his eyes off his cell phone. "That chink girlfriend of yours, what's her name? Mitsy? Muza?"
I rolled my eyes. "Mizuki. We're... not really friends anymore."
Ed laughed and sat down on his bed. "Why, your dick not big enough for her?"
It took everything in me not to slap his hard, stiff face into next week. "Fuck off," I grumbled, staring ahead at my English paper, though not absorbing a word of it.
My roommate scoffed, kicked his shoes off and laid down. "She's in my Spanish class... talks about you a lot."
This caught my attention, and I suddenly calmed down quite a bit. "Does she?" I said, trying not to sound too interested. He nodded and smirked. "And what does she say?"
Ed's smirk grew into a full grin. "All she does is talk about how you're a basket case. Seems about right to me."
"A basket case?" I ground my teeth. It wasn't first time I'd been named as such, either.
A scoff. "Yeah, she said you and your fag brother are ass-fucking. Wouldn't surprise me." I ignored him, but he continued: "She also said you beat the shit out of your best friend and then ran off to Pinksburgh in the middle of the night."
I did my best to not let him get to me, but it was growing harder and harder each second. I took a second to compose myself before saying, "You don't know shit, asshole. And that was three years ago." I felt rage and fear boil in my head as I finally looked over to Ed, who didn't appreciate my remark.
"You're a piece of shit, Julius," he spat, jumping up from his bed, though I doubted he would do anything about it.
"Sit down," I murmured.
Ed didn't sit down. "Fuck you, freak." I shut him out, turning back to my computer. I couldn't help noting the disgusting similarities between him and my father. My heart thumped as I heard him approach me. "That's right, get back to studying, that's all you're fucking good for, loser."
I stood up, glaring at him from less than a foot away. "At least that makes me good for something."
He lost it, swearing belligerently at me for a few seconds before knocking the things off my desk in anger. I watched, stupefied in place, as he kicked his desk, nearly putting his foot through it. I was sure that, any second now, I would be getting beaten up. Ed shot me a dangerous, distinctly terrifying look as he jerked the door open and left suddenly. I was awkwardly standing by myself for a moment before I realized that this feeling, the desperation and futile anger I felt for Ed... was the same thing I'd felt for Gordie and Vaughn. I shook my head in a mixture of fright and displeasure at this realization.
"No, no, no," I croaked out, sitting down on my bed and putting my head in my hands. "God, no, not again, no, I can't do it again, no!" I was screaming, but I wasn't sure why. I'd never been this terrified of wanting to kill. Maybe it was the personal nature of our relationship, his direct effect on me through his childish actions.
A positively horrifying thought pulsated through me: what if my desire to kill Ed was motivated by the way he reminded me of my dad? "No..." I couldn't possibly justify ending someone's life simply because he made me think of someone else I hated, could I? I shook it off. I wasn't going to kill Ed. He'd done next to nothing to me, not like Vaughn and Gordie had done. While Ed was a dipshit excuse for a human being and roommate, he wasn't the scum of the earth like the others were, was he?
Mikey had become very irritable over the last few days, for what reason I wasn't entirely certain. I had a feeling he had been hiding something from me and our friends, but I couldn't fathom what it could be. At the same time, I knew he'd likely tell me what it was soon enough; he never was one for keeping secrets.
"Hey, Mikey," I said, sitting down across from him at the too-large library table. He didn't have any books in front of him, he simply held his head in his hands, muscled arms firm against the table. He nodded at me once in acknowledgement. "Uh... what's up?" At this point, I noticed his rather rugged looking appearance. Mikey looked as though he hadn't shaved in four or five days, he was wearing what seemed to be the clothes he'd slept in – always the same sweatshirt and gym shorts, even in the dead of winter and the blistering summer – and his eyes were red with (what I hoped was only) sleep deprivation. Even in the most intense exam weeks of our lives, I'd never seen him this burnt-out. "Are you okay?" I prompted when he didn't answer my previous question.
He coughed, snapping out of it somewhat. "S-sorry. Yeah, I'm fine. You?"
I nodded, still staring at him. I observed Mikey's hair, which he's been arranging in a half-ponytail as of late, currently in a massive, knotted mess which he'd half-heartedly concealed with a red winter hat. "What's going on, man? You've been weird this week."
Mikey shook his head. "It's not important."
I raised an eyebrow. "So there is something?"
Finally, Mikey gave in, spilling everything in a high-strung voice: "I'm being contested for plagiarism, by my marketing professor. Load of bullshit, obviously, but I could get expelled. In my last year! All this work, these last three years will be for nothing, just because my prof is a bitch."
I absorbed this with interest. Mikey looked like he was about to cry, though I could probably count on one hand the number of times I'd seen him do so. "Well if you didn't do it, you don't have anything to worry about, right?"
He looked at me oddly. "Obviously I didn't do it. You – you don't think I would steal someone's work, do you?"
"N-no, of course not, I just meant that you'll be fine." I wondered if Mikey was "protesting too much". I shook it off, surprised at myself that I'd even consider him to be guilty.
Mikey simmered down a bit and breathed. "Yeah, you're right. I'm freaking out over nothing, right?"
I hated to be a pessimist, but, "They... they don't have any... proof, do they?"
I immediately regretted asking when I caught Mikey's poisonous look. "If you've got something to say," he said with spite, "just say it, Julius."
"That's not what I meant!" I said in defence, "I'm sure you didn't do it, okay? Happy?"
Mikey sighed, sat back and shook his head. After a moment, he took a hair elastic out of his pocket and combed his hair with his fingers, putting it back into a full ponytail. He calmed himself down and shook it off. "Alright. So... how do I keep from getting expelled? You're good with this stuff, right?"
I swallowed. "I don't know, I've never, y'know..."
He nodded. "Right."
"Sorry. But I'm sure everything will okay, they can't kick you out for no reason."
Our conversation was cut short with the untimely arrival of Tom and Zach. "Don't tell anyone, okay?" Mikey murmured to me as they sat down. I agreed, though I didn't completely understand his sense of shame. Why would he be so desperate to keep it from me and our friends unless he was guilty? I put it out of my mind, not wanting to believe that he was lying.
"So what's the plan for Christmas break this year, guys?" Tom asked, taking out his biology textbook. "Staying here?"
I shook my head. "No, we're gonna stay with my brother. You should come visit us."
Zach chuckled. "I would, but it's a bit of a hike from Toronto."
"Going to stay with your 'girlfriend' again, Zach?" Mikey asked with a smirk.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I am," he retorted, pretending not to notice his disbelief. "She wants to introduce me to her parents. That should be loads of fun."
Tom laughed. "My first girlfriend, when I was like, sixteen, we had dinner with her crazy-ass dad once, he hated me like you wouldn't believe. We were having some sort of goat meat – they were French, I think – and it was so disgusting, I nearly threw up," he said, speaking with a sudden intensity, "but I didn't. I ate the whole damn thing."
Mikey was trying to keep himself from laughing. "That's a great story."
"But guess what?" Tom continued, "she broke up with me less than a week later!"
"Why?" Mikey asked, suddenly interested.
Tom shrugged. "No idea."
Zach whispered to me, "I think I have an idea or two."
We swapped plans for what to do over the break and planned to get together for New Years Eve like we'd made a tradition of doing the last two years. A part of me wondered – feared even – what would happen after we all graduated and went our own ways. I was sure Mikey and I would remain friends at the very least, but what of Tom, Owen, Zach and even Mizuki? What about my one-semester friends, the ones who always swear we'll hang out sometime even after our class finishes and then we never do? I didn't feel like I needed anyone but my brother and two closest friends, but it would seem like a shame to me if we never saw our university friends again simply because we wouldn't all be congregated in the same area for long periods of time.
"We should go to the movies, or the mall or something," Zach said boredly after staring at Tom's biology book for a few minutes.
Mikey winced. "My car's broken down again."
I scoffed. "What's wrong this time?"
He shrugged. "No idea." We gave him skeptical looks. "I just drop it off at the shop, they fix it, I pay them a ridiculous amount of money. Circle of car ownership."
We chuckled. "We could take the bus," Tom suggested, only half-interested in abandoning his homework to hang out. He was in the middle of a problem set, it looked like, but I knew that if the opportunity arrived, he would jump at the chance to slack off with the rest of us.
Mikey shook his head and looked at his watch. "Not tonight, I'm Skyping with Bridget in a half hour anyway. Want to get dinner? It's five already."
We relocated to cafeteria, awkwardly avoiding the table where Mizuki and Ed sat eating. I'd never seen them together in public, though I'd known that they were something like friends. I wondered if I should have felt jealous, angry, frustrated... but I didn't. I was only surprised. Ed wasn't the type of guy to make friends with anyone, let alone a woman. Let alone an Asian woman, as he'd shown himself to be a right and proper racist. It made me wonder what he was doing – not to mention what Mizuki was doing, befriending such a piece of shit – but I didn't overly want to dwell on it. I'd accepted that my lie had, instead of preserving our friendship, single-handedly destroyed it. But I didn't feel bad about it, not in the slightest. I wished I did, but I didn't. I was still sure that I'd done the right thing, despite everything. At the very least, I'd had good intentions, right?
"Hey," Mikey said, snapping me out of my thoughts and making me realize I'd been staring at Mizuki. He spoke quietly to me so the other guys couldn't hear, though they were talking school anyway. "She'll get over it, y'know."
"What do you mean?"
He jerked his head in Mizuki's direction. "She's just upset, she'll get over it."
I shook my head. "I don't think so. It wouldn't be like her."
Mikey shrugged and took a bite of his crappy cafeteria hamburger. "I dunno, I think she still likes you, so she wouldn't cut you out forever. And obviously she's just using Ed to make you jealous, and Ed's too stupid to realize."
I was shocked that Mikey had noticed Ed's intrusion into Mizuki's life. I was even more shocked at the idea of Mizuki simply trying to make me jealous, and I wondered why she would think it would work. In spite of this, I did miss her presence in my life, and I hoped that Mikey would end up being right.
We were delayed in our return to Desmond's apartment (what we'd grown accustomed to calling our home) when Mikey informed me that his car wouldn't be out of the shop until Christmas Eve. So we hung around the too-empty campus for a few days, all our friends gone home, gone to girlfriends' houses, gone into the city. Unfortunately for me, Ed, too, would be staying until Christmas Eve, when he would go to his parents' house in Kings.
Ed took the holiday as an opportunity to do all the drugs he owned and drink all the booze he could find. Not a moment seemed to pass where he wasn't tripping out or staggeringly drunk or both. I never had had any respect for Ed, of course, but I found myself hating him even more when he was intoxicated than when he wasn't – which really said something.
"When are you gonna be back?" I asked my roommate, half-asleep on his bed across the room, as I packed for Desmond's.
"I dunno," he slurred, "the tenth? Ninth? I dunno. Stop talking to me, dick."
I scoffed quietly. "Whatever."
Ed wasn't nearly sober enough to have a real conversation or argument, so he just growled into his pillow. After a moment, he said, "You should just fuckin' stay in the city, don't come back and annoy the shit outta people." I was amazed at his relative coherence.
"I'll keep that in mind."
I winced as I heard him sit up. "You think you're such hot fuckin' shit, don't you? Y'think everyone but you is a fuckin' idiot."
I couldn't stop myself: "You are an idiot."
He stumbled across the suite to my closet, where I'd been piling clothes into my backpack. "Tha's what I'm talkin' about, asshole! You're a fuckin' arrogant prick!"
I finally turned around to face him. "And you're not?"
His ugly face was contorted in rage. "You're a useless fuck, Julius! You're just a fuck-up. Nobody likes you, not even Mikey, did you know that? You're just a psycho, a fuckin' pussy!"
I hit him. Unfortunately, I didn't get a particularly good punch because I was completely enraged and it was almost as if my muscles were moving of their own accord. Ed cried out and stumbled back, but only slightly. Though he was totally shitfaced, I knew that he was about to retaliate, likely beating me into next week.
"Fucker," he spat, standing up straight and glaring at me as he swayed around. I had just managed to take my glasses off and toss them onto my desk when he suddenly lunged forward, his hands around my neck. I had a sudden and intense flashback to the time when I was a kid and Desmond had almost killed me by choking me, and as Ed's grip grew tighter and tighter, I wondered in terror if this might actually be it for me, if he was really drunk enough to kill me. I knew that he wanted to, but would he have the passion, the raw hatred to do it?
I could only stare in agony at his surprisingly lucid brown eyes, piercing and angry. A second later, I noticed he was grinning. I struggled against him for breath. This is it, I'm going to die here! HE'S GOING TO KILL ME!
After a few more seconds, however, he relented. I gasped in air like never before, but it was only a split second before I got a fist in my face. I yelled, but my cry was cut short as he continued to punch me.
"Get – the fuck off!" I said as he beat me, my head swimming with pain. He ignored me, shoving me against the floor and grabbing me by the shirt. Another hit, right in the nose. I felt blood pour out of my face, only to see it two punches later on Ed's hands.
I grabbed him by the shoulder and tried to shove him away from me, but he was too big and much stronger. I squirmed under his weight, trying to knee him in the balls, but I couldn't get the right angle. My one arm was completely useless, awkwardly wedged under my own body, but I thought my left might have a chance.
I managed to grab his fist a second before it would've been in my face. I could hardly see what I was doing without my glasses, but I tried to throw him back, off of me and onto his back. It almost worked, but I wasn't strong enough.
My attempt to escape him had only made Ed angrier. He resumed hitting me, one swift punch getting me in the throat. I almost puked.
After a few moments more, he'd had enough of me, thank God. I breathed heavily and groaned in pain, not moving from the floor as I watched Ed stand up and stumble over to his desk. He noticed the blood on his hands and looked over to me as if he couldn't believe what he'd done. I almost, for some reason, expected him to apologize, but instead he glared at me intensely and sauntered back over. I scrambled to life, trying to inch away from him.
He stared me in the eyes as his foot made sharp contact with my side. I cried out in agony. He kicked me again, in the shoulder, and finally, in the head. I passed out while watching him laugh at me.
Mikey found me an hour later, shook me awake and asked me what the hell had happened. I told him on my way to the bathroom to scrape a thick layer of blood from my face and to look in horror at my new black eye, swollen lip, the bruises on my neck shaped distinctly like big, meaty fingers, and the general rearranged-ness of my face.
"Holy shit, Julius," he kept saying, looking away from me as I spit up blood into the bathroom sink. "Where is he? I'm gonna fucking rip him a new one!"
I shook my head despite the raging headache that coursed through me. My every muscle ached and burned, my throat especially. I could barely speak, but I croaked: "I don't know where he went, I passed out I think." Mikey winced at the sound of my voice. He hugged me twice in the span of five minutes. I think he was more afraid than I'd been.
We went back into the room so I could find my glasses and lay down for a bit, considering it was a challenge for me to breathe properly. Mikey sat down at my desk and continued to vocalize empty threats against my roommate. I wondered passively why he was so upset – he'd seen me this bad and Desmond worse when we were kids – but I guessed it was shock, seeing as how it had been years since I'd been beaten up and he felt bad for me. Maybe it was something more, but I was too exhausted to tell.
I felt like I could've slept for years, but I knew Desmond was expecting us and would be worried if we didn't come. Mikey said we could wait until I was feeling better, but I knew he didn't want to hit traffic that was too bad, so we reluctantly left a couple of hours later.
The car was fresh out of the shop, so naturally, it took twenty minutes of hoping and praying for it to start.
As we drove, I realized how numb I felt. Only when I noticed this did I suddenly become angry. I dipped between passionate rage and fear: the former at Ed's behaviour, the latter at how desperately I wanted to kill him. It was only one semester left, right? I could put up with that asshole for one more semester. But despite my "reassuring" thoughts, I found myself wondering if I'd discovered my next victim.