Warning: Contains m/m relationships, implied self-mutilation, language, drugs…and who knows what else.

Goodbye for Good

            "Mom, I don't think the tie can be anymore tighter.  Lacking oxygen here." Joseph Gray pulled away from his mother's grabbing hands.

            "It's crooked, let me fix it." The older woman yanked the boy over by tugging at his tie, causing Joseph to blanch.

            "Jesus, you act like the Pope is coming over for dinner.  This suit is so itchy.  Mom, you just screwed up my hair!"

            She patted down his suit and straightened out the wrinkles.  Looking up lovingly at her son, she smiled and whispered, "What a handsome boy." 

            Joseph turned away, barely hiding the blush on his cheeks.  He looked into the mirror in front of him, turning his head from side to side.  He combed his light brown hair, still looking irritated.  Silently looking into the mirror, he caught the image of his father behind him.

            "Joseph, Mr. Yang is here."  Nothing else was said.  His father quickly turned and left to the dining room.

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            "You're supposed to stay on third base, you idiot!  You don't run with him!" A tall brunette yelled furiously at a smaller kid, who was huddled in the dirt in a fetal position.  "What the hell is this?  Get up, you wuss!"

            "Good! Leave the kid alone.  He ain't no damn professional.  Quite pissing the kid." Another, much older looking kid, glared down. 

            Jeffery Good crossed his arms over his chest and turned away. "To the benches then.  He needs to learn 'fore he starts playing." 

            The smaller kid quickly got to his feet and shuffled to the bench.  The baseball game resumed, each boy receiving a chance to get yelled at by Jeffery Good.  "That's a foul! Don't you dare tell me it was the damn wind, you bastard! Get someone other than your mom to teach you how to swing!"

            The game slowly progressed, the players getting wearier by the minute.  The sky darkened, reminding them all that they each had curfews.

            "Hey, Good.  We really need to get these kids in shape.  Look at that one.  He probably won't make it to his place.  He's sweating like crazy." Deck Mahn pointed to a short stubby boy who was nearly dragging his legs across the field.  "It's pathetic."

            Good shrugged, leaning slightly to the side.  "Some weren't made for this type of business."

            "Right." Deck replied dully.  "I better head home myself.  Mom's making some chops today.  Wanna come over?"

            "I'll be fine.  M'sure there's something edible in the fridge."

            Deck chuckled, "I'll be saving you some then."

            "Thanks." Deck left, his cap placed sideways on his red head.  Good sighed loudly and began to walk across the dirt field.  He walked over to the bench and sat down, pulling off his old sneakers.  The red sand poured out of the tips, the wind now blowing it harshly into Good's face. He dusted his socks off, placed his shoes back on and stood, dusted his knee-high shorts, and patted his shirt.  He grabbed his duffle bag, placing his catching mitt inside and walked out past the fence.

            Good walked quietly down the dark streets, his duffle bag slung over his shoulder.  He could hear the sounds of babies crying, mothers whimpering, and fathers screaming.  Glass shattering, dogs howling, police sirens flaring, and more common noises were heard.  He made it to his home in ten minutes, though it would have taken him longer if he hadn't tensed and ran from the scary noises. The house was visibly molding, the screen door hanging off its hinges.

            He kicked the welcome mat in front of his house and grabbed the key under it.  Good quietly opened the door and noticed all the lights were out.  "Mom?  Amy? Jake?"  He heard small shuffling feet in response.

            "Jeff." Amy Good, his younger sister of fifteen years, walked up to him with slow steps.  "Jake is asleep.  I put him to bed early."

            "'kay.  And mom?"  Good placed his duffle bag on the old couch near the door and switched on the light. 

            "Asleep.  She was up when I got home from school.  She was drinking some coffee and smoking.  Nothing different."  Amy was wearing a yellow stained nightgown.  Her brown hair was tied back tightly in a bun. 

            "How was school?"

            Amy brightened visibly.  "My science teacher wants to put me in honors next year.  She's already signed the waver forms.  I…" Her voice trailed.

            "What's wrong?"

            "I need mom's signature."

            Good shrugged, "I'll get it for you." 

            His sister's face was again bright with joy.  She hugged her brother tightly, her smile wide.  "Thanks, Jeff."

            "No problem.  Did you eat today?"

            "No, but I'm not hungry.  I'm too excited!" Amy jumped up, her hands clasped together.

            Good laughed under his breath.  "Are you sure?  I can get something for you.  Deck offered."

            "I'm fine."

            "Alright.  Well, get some sleep then."  Good pushed his sister into the small room.  "Night, Ames."

            "Night, Goody."

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            "Joseph here has exceptional talent.  It has been such a pleasure working with him.  I'm sure he will have no trouble at all getting signed up."  An elderly Asian man sat beside Joseph with a broad smile. 

            "I'm so glad to hear that, Mr. Yang.  I was a bit worried earlier.  I've been hearing a lot about these child prodigies.  Why, just yesterday, a boy of eight was being signed a contract."  Joseph's mother sipped her tea, never breaking eye contact with Mr. Yang.

            "Ah, yes.  That does sound discouraging, but Joseph has a unique talent.  He may be older than the other's, but he'll make it."

            Joseph stared straight past his mother, his eyebrows furrowed in thought.  His mind wondered.  Mr. Yang and his mother talked, though the words flowed from one ear and out the other.

            "…a pianist."

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            Jeffery Good sat beside his younger brother Jake, who was giggling childishly as he watched his brother concentrate on his homework.  Good yawned loudly, missing the sight of his mother walking past him.  Jake gurgled in laughter, causing Good to look up.

            "Why are you up?"  Good half glared at his mother.  The woman looked tired and weary.  Her eyes were red and puffy, her hair was a disaster, and her walk was trembling. 

            "I need to eat, ya know."  She poured herself a cup of coffee and lit a cigarette.

            "So do your children."  Good was still staring angrily at her.

            She coughed and smiled sadly.  "I know, Jeffery.  Your dad's check'll be coming in soon."

            Good scoffed and went back to doing his work.  He tried to at least.  His mind wandered off, and he lost track of time as he stared at his pre-calculus book.

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            "What makes you think I want to do this?  Does my opinion even matter to you?  Of course not! Because if it did, you would have asked!"  As soon as Mr. Yang left, Joseph quickly ran to his room screaming his lungs out.  "I'm not signing anything!"

            "Joseph!  You have a talent! You can't just let it go to waste."  His mother cried, hoping to reason with the disgruntled boy.

            "I can do more than one thing!  Playing the piano can be done by anyone!"

            "What else can you do, Joseph?  Tell me what else you can do that will make you famous?  Tell me, Joseph."

            Joseph stared into his mother's eyes.  "I can…I can…I can scream really loud!"  He slammed the door in her face and huffed.

            "You'd think you'd pass for an eight year old, seeing how you act like one!"

            Joseph leaned into the door and slid down.  He hid his face under his arms.  He loved playing the piano, but he didn't want to do it everyday.  People would watch him on stage, pick at every note he missed, and criticize him for his lack of fashion sense. 

            His father was neither on his side nor his mother's.  He was just there to watch.  He must find it quite amusing, Joseph thought.

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            Good poured his sister a cup of orange juice and handed her a plain bagel.  "I'll go shopping once the check comes in.  Drink up, Ames."

            Amy smiled sadly but complied. She placed the empty cup in the sink and hugged both brothers before running to catch her bus. 

            "Come on, Jake.  Auntie's waiting for you."  Good lifted his baby brother into his arms and walked out of the house.  He walked over to the house next door and knocked.

            "Good!"  An elderly woman with pure white hair answered the door.  She smiled as she took Jake into her arms.  "Boy, you look ever so tired.  You sleeping well?  How's Becky?  I hope she gets out of that slump of hers.  You children are falling apart."

            "We'll be fine, Ms. Nurra.  Thanks as always."  Good ran back to his house and grabbed his bookbag.

            Ms. Nurra was still at the door waving at Good, "Study hard boy!"

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            Joseph ignored his teacher's lectures as he sat in the back with his book opened to a random page.  He bit his pencil in annoyance.  This day is going so damn slow, he thought bitterly.  He pulled at his long sleeves, hoping to keep his skin covered. 

            "Read chapter 17 of the Vietnam War and answer the section reviews.  Yes, all of them."

            Joseph continued to block out the others around him. 

            "Also, I'd like a full page summary on the chapter."

            Muffled groans and whimpers surfaced, and the teacher went back to his desk and shuffled papers.  Bags were being zipped up, causing Joseph to snap back into reality.  The bell rang.

            He walked out of the building and towards the busses.  He watched as students crowded the bus loop.  Joseph decided he would walk home today.  It's only…an hour away, he thought, exercise is good.

            He walked down the street of the school with his bag over his shoulders.  This was the first time he had walked home, but he knew the way.  He had nothing better to do on the bus, so he watched the route.  Though that meant he would have to take other streets.  "Star Mills.  Who comes up with these damn names?"  He walked, his step suddenly quickening as he realized the neighborhoods seemed to get worse and worse each block.  Soon he was running.  "Fuck."  He looked behind himself, wondering if someone was chasing him.  As soon as he turned his head to look back, he collided straight into something hard.

            Joseph fell onto his back, letting out a small yelp.  His eyes were shut tightly, trying to make the throbbing in his head subside. 

            "That's called a tree." A teasing voice popped up.

            "Shut up." Joseph kept his eyes shut, but he rolled over on his side.

            "Deck, what'd you do this time?"  A new voice.

            "This smart kid here ran himself into Benz." 

            Joseph covered his head.  "Who the fuck is Benz?"

            The newest voice said, "You okay?"

            "I hate Benz."  Joseph replied.

            Laughter.  He was surrounded.

            He felt a tug at his black sweater.  "Let me see your head."

            "I'm fine." Joseph swatted the hand away and opened his eyes.  Short and tall, black, white, and brown, young and old, though equally curious.  A group of boys encircled him, each looking at him with amusement.  He stood up and dusted off his baggy jeans. 

            "I've never seen you before."  It was the observant tree boy, Joseph thought. 

            "Probably because I'm not from around here."  Joseph tried to reply with attitude.  It was not very intimidating.

            "Then why are you here?"

            "Deck, back off."  Joseph looked at the brunette in front of him.  The boy was wearing a dirty white shirt that was three sizes too large and shorts.  "Name's Jeffery Good, but just call me Good."  Good smiled.

            "Joseph Gray."

            "This is Deck." Good pointed to tree boy.  "This is Kenny, Beck, Tinkerbell, Jimmy, Eric, Mitts, Rino, Fish, Ants," Good went on to name the others, but Joseph had blanked him out after Tinkerbell. "and sweet Benz."  Good patted the large tree with a wide smile.

            Deck coughed, "Well, that was a great waste of game time.  We playing or what?" 

            The group of boys dispersed and went back on the field.  Good and Deck shrugged and turned towards the field.

            "Uh.." Joseph looked down the street and felt his stomach tighten.  "You guys know the closest way to Mackenzie?"

            Tree boy turned and gave Joseph a quizzical look. "Mackenzie.  That's about four blocks down.  The best way to get there is to cut through the yards."

            Joseph nodded hesitantly.  "Okay.  So…Can I cut through this field?"

            Good was yelling at one of the small boys to get off the field.  "I'm gonna burn that mitt of yours if you don't play serious, Ants!"

            Deck was grinning at Good, "Yeah, just head down there.  You one of them rich boys, huh?  Worst place for you to be is 'round here."

            "Rino! You're next!"

            "Good, take your damn pills.  You're scaring everybody."  Deck quipped.

            Joseph was staring past the field, feeling extremely nervy. 

            "Joe?" Good was staring at him with laughter.

            "So I…go through there." Joseph stated.

            "Yup." Deck was biting his nail and grinning. "Scared, rich boy?"

            Good turned back to the field and shook his fist at the other boys, "That's it, piss boys!  I'm not messing anymore!"

            Deck sighed loudly, noticing Joseph was still standing in the same spot.  "I'll have Good take you.  I need to get him off my back, anyhow.  Good! Shut the fuck up.  Get over here."

            Joseph shook his head.  Who were these kids?  He had never seen either one of them.  The fact that they lived in the same district with him, and he had never seen them was odd. 

            "What what, Deck?"  Good was now grinning as if nothing had happened. 

            "Mojo here is too scared to get home on his own." 

            Joseph finally snapped out of his trance.  "I'm not freaking scared!  I'm just not used to being around here." 

            "He's not 'freaking' scared, Deck." Good joked.

            Joseph glared at Good.  "I'm not."

            Deck shrugged and waved Joseph off.  "Fine.  Then it's best you be getting home 'fore it gets 'freaking' dark."

            Joseph all but growled as he pushed past Deck and Good.  He walked around the field to the other side.  His hands were stuffed into his pockets, and his face was dark. 

            "Joe!" 

            Good was quickly beside him, one hand on his shoulder.  They walked quietly to the other side and stood on the sidewalk.  Good looked up at Joseph with a worried look.  "I'll take you down to Mackenzie."

            "Thanks."  Joseph was ultimately grateful.  They began cutting through a few yards, Good often laughing to himself. Joseph shrugged, "What school do you go to?"

            "Fredericks."  Good answered quickly.

            "Oh.  I go to K. Mandolins."

            "Figures."

            Joseph kept quiet, unsure if he should have taken that comment as an insult.  K. Mandolins was not a private school, but it was populated with the wealthy children.  He knew that Fredericks was not one of the best schools.

            "You mind waiting real quick? I need to check if…just wait here."  Good turned and ran across the street to a small dingy building.  Joseph stood silently, suddenly nervous.  He waited anxiously for Good to come back out of the building.  At every noise he heard, he jumped.  What felt like hours, Good finally appeared with a grin on his face.  "Alright.  Let's go."

            "What is that place?"  Joseph asked, trying to calm himself.

            "Nothing.  So, why were you walking around for?"  It was obvious to Joseph that Good wanted to change the subject.

            "I just needed time to think, so I thought maybe I'd walk home instead.  I don't like riding the bus.  It's so crowded.  I can never think straight."

            "Oh."  Good was still grinning, and it made Joseph very curious.  But he bit back from asking.  "It's a bit too hot to be wearing a sweater.  Especially a black one.  Too rich to wear something simple?"

            Joseph scoffed and glared. 

            "I'm messing with ya."  Good jumped over a fence in someone's nicely cleaned yard.  Joseph followed, though his arms seemed to tremble as he gripped the metal.  "You okay?"

            "Yeah. I'm fine.  You guys always play baseball after school?"  It was his turn to change the subject.

            "The guys do, most of the week.  I don't though.  I'm always busy at home.  But I try to play when I can.  It's my way of relaxing."

            Joseph nodded as he jumped over a cable wire that was lying dangerously in the grass.

                        "You should come play with us sometime.  We need some new guys.  I'm on the verge of killing some of the others."  Good smiled.

            "I'll think about it."

            "Well, guess we're here."  Good stopped in front of the street of Mackenzie.  He looked down with a look of awe and sadness.

            "Thanks, Good."  Joseph began walking, but stopped as soon as he realized Good was not following.  "You coming?"

            "Uh…no.  I'm going to head home.  You don't need anything else, do you?"  Good looked nervous.

            Joseph stared at the brunette with confusion.  "No.  That's it.  Thanks."

            "'Kay.  I'll see ya then."  Good turned and walked away.

            Joseph stood still.  What was that all about?  Good almost looked scared.  He shrugged and continued to walk home.  

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A/N:  Inspired by a book called Define Normal.  I'll have the next chapter up soon.  (My definition of 'soon' may vary from yours.)