Place Where the Rockstars Go
"Would you be mad if I told you I was gay?"
The loud crunching of my father's cereal in his mouth came to a screeching halt as he looked up at me. His expression was non-existent. He had frozen, his hand poise to shovel another spoonful of the cereal into his already full mouth. A bit of milk dripped off of his spoon.
"What?" His muffled response came. He finished chewing and swallowed.
"No..." He gave me a perplexing gaze.
"Good." I said, grabbing the cereal box to pour myself a bowl. I drenched the fluffy flakes with watery milk and smothered it with sugar. I grabbed a spoon from the drawer and sat down opposite of my dad. I shoved a spoonful into my mouth. My body was happy I was eating that morning. I could just tell.
"Where did this come from?" Dad asked, opening the "Currents" section of that morning's paper.
"What come from?"
"Your sudden desire for the same sex."
"I hate women." I replied. "And Jon's been looking might tempting lately." Dad grinned and skimmed his eyes across the black and white.
"I hate women, too." He said, knowing I was only kidding.
"Why aren't you at work?"
"Need to find an attorney."
"Don't bother. You won't need one. Won't they just ask me what I want?"
"They will." Dad folded up the currents. Sports was next. "But I still need to at least look like I tried."
"Make sure he's male." I said with a mouthful of cereal. "I don't trust bitches."
Dad smirked and shook his head. "So dinner was bad last night?"
"Would you think I was being too soft if I forgave Octavia?"
"What'd she do?"
"I didn't tell you?"
"You might have." Dad laughed shortly, and in an embarrassed sort of way. "Bad night last night."
"She so cheated on me."
Dad's expression was blank.
"Her ex. She lied and said it was nothing, but it was. And I really don't care. I mean, I did, for a little while, but then mom decided to be stupid and I realized that what Octavia did is like…insignificant to me. At least right now."
"So don't worry about it." Dad said. "Don't make things bigger than they really are. She seems like a nice kid, I think."
I nodded slowly. I liked talking to my dad. He's opinion was the most important – I cared about what he thought of me more than anyone else. I wanted him to be proud of me. I never really admitted it until then.
"I don't like Derek, either." I continued conversation, because I knew dad wouldn't bring him up. "He's really wide, isn't he?"
Dad chuckled again as he stood up. "Yeah, I guess he is kind of a big guy, isn't he."
"He owns an Italian restaurant. I hate Italian food."
"No you don't." Dad put his empty bowl in the sink.
"I do, and I hate people who own restaurants that specialize in that kind of cuisine. Mom's like 'But he lives in Courton so you can see Hollan whenever you want.' I hate it."
"He lives in Courton, huh?" Dad tried not to show his hatred for the whole ordeal. He always tried to be mostly bias when we talked about important things. It was just a good idea. He was always open to both sides. Whenever I complained about school or friends, he was never completely on my side, but he was never against me, either.
"You don't want me to go there, do you?"
"Of course not." He turned around. "And you won't, so don't worry about it. Just saying that we might have to work something out. You might end up spending some time down there, that's all."
"What if they make me go down there for the summer?"
"Because you're terminally ill and your doctor lives here."
"Finally. I knew something good would come out of all of this."
Dad grinned at me. He didn't look like he had just gotten wasted the night before. Dad always had it together. At least he pretended too. He had to, and I knew he did it for me.
"Oh, your coach called this morning, after I called you in sick." Dad took my empty bowl from the table. I grabbed the newspaper. "He said you have a game tonight. I said you'd probably want to go."
"You can go." Dad said. "It's home. He said to call him sometime when you're up and let him know."
"I can go?"
I grinned. "You should come."
"I'll come." Dad said. "So just take it easy today, though. Anthony gave me an earful a few days ago after he found out I was letting you play. I figured there really isn't harm. You know when to quit, right?." Pause. "Right?"
"Right." I was curt.
"I'm serious." I said. "I'll call him now." I stood up from the table and grabbed the phone. Dad walked out of the room. I don't know where he went. I called the school office and asked for Mr. Hunt, the baseball coach. They directed my call to his room and we chatted for a few minutes. He was worried that something had happened (he knew of my current 'condition'). I said I was okay, just tired and needed to sleep in. He said to be at the field that night around five to warm up. Game started at six-thirty. I said I'd be there. He told me to take it easy. That must have been the phrase of the day. I didn't really mind. I tried to tell myself that I was lucky people cared about me. Or at least that people pretended to.
I automatically expected the worst. Life was good until recently, and everything went to shit. Not everything, of course, but for the most part, my life was like the movies. Anything and everything that could go wrong did – trying to make the audience feel for me in some way. Sympathy to draw in a crowd for the dramatic climax at the end and the resolution that everything would be okay again. Everything went downhill after that stupid psychic "read" my cards. I know none of that stuff is true, but there's no denying that it started then. It couldn't have been true, anyway. I remembered Mercedes and Jon's cards. Mercedes had happiness, and abundance. She wasn't happy. She was in the middle of a teenage crisis to find her identity in the cruel world of high school reality where gay kids are shunned and outcast from the rest of us supposed "normal" folk. And her parents were too conservative – they'd kill her before accepting the fact that their daughter liked vagina.
Jon had wisdom and prosperity. Okay, maybe that sort of fit in: Jon was too sagacious for his own good, although you'd never know it by looking at him. But what good was his wisdom doing for him? He was kicked out of his parents house, who are now God only knows where, and he's got his little sister to worry about, not to mention that fact he's got to move to another freakin' state in another month… But I guess I was really just making excuses then. I was looking for a reason for all of this misery in my life, when really…
I don't know where it came from. I didn't know when it would leave.
I tried to think about the game. I was glad I had baseball. I know it sounds stupid, but it was kind of like my outlet. When I was on the mound, all I could think about was the game, and striking the batter out. I wasn't thinking about my parents' custody battle, the revelation of my biological father, my cheating girlfriend, my "job" with Aaron or my stupid heart that decided to fail on me. I was thinking about the game.
Dad left to go meet with his attorney and left me with strict orders to take it easy. At that point, I was an expert at the sport. It kind of pissed me off that my once vivacious, active lifestyle had been reduced to watching daytime soaps from my perch on the couch with the cat. There were very few times that I thought about how unfair it all was. But life wasn't fair, right?
But wasn't I entitled to have a few good things going for me? Just a few?
I think people just expect things to turn out okay in the end. Like when you read a book. Doesn't matter what happens throughout the entire story, as long as there's some sort of happy ending. If there's not, people feel they have some sort of right to get upset.
Hello, people! Let's grow up for a fucking change! I hate people who expect everything to be perfect…who have it all perfect. They don't have to worry about the last chapter – they know everything's going to turn out great for them. But me? I was too afraid to even turn the page.
But I hate the people who find some sort of joy in denying me of my happy ending. They should know, shouldn't they? I guess some people are too self-absorbed to think about what everybody else expects.
And I hate being self-absorbed.
I fell asleep as the meaningless battle in my head raged on. Why do I always find myself arguing with myself? I really needed to get out.
And I didn't dream. There wasn't any time. My phone rang, waking me up. I ripped my eyes open, finding some sort of gunk gluing them together. I rubbed my eyes, squishing the substance out into the corners of my eyes, taking a few lashes along. I sat up, feeling lightheaded, wondering where the ringing was coming from.
I got to my feet and the ringing stopped. It was almost one o'clock. It was probably Octavia who had called. Lunch was almost over. I wondered what she wanted. If she had anything important to say to me…
Dad came home around one thirty. I wouldn't have known this, being that I was concentrating on my current show, which just happened to be Unsolved Mysteries when my dad's large hands shook my shoulders from behind.
"We're doing mediation!" I heard him say.
I turned my head to see him smiling, as though he'd already won. "Mediation?"
"You me, your mom and that other guy-"
"Yeah, whatever. But we're going to sit down, and talk about what we should do, instead of going to court and bitching to a judge."
"About what you should do with me?"
"So this is a good thing?"
"This is a great thing. Especially since you're going to be there. Not that I'm making your decision, but pretty much if you want to stay with me, you're staying with me."
"It sounds too easy." I gave him a skeptical look. "No, actually, I take that back. I don't want to sit there in front of mom and tell her I don't want to live with her. I can't do that."
Dad nodded. "I understand how you feel. Don't be pressured to say anything you don't want to." He paused, sitting down in the armchair near the couch. "This will work. I know it will."
I just nodded my head. I trusted him. He was my father.
"We're going Saturday. Around one. Is that okay?"
"I don't have any plans."
Dad nodded again and got up. "Hungry? I think I'm gonna make something."
"You should eat something. Especially if you're going to play tonight."
Octavia called around three. I was sleeping, but the ringing woke me up. I heard my dad say from downstairs that I couldn't come to the phone. I knew it was Octavia. She was the only person that called me.
I got out of bed at four. Coach wanted me to be at the field at five for warm-ups. I technically shouldn't have been there because I had missed school, but it seemed like he had a way of bending the rules for me. I couldn't have been that good.
My cell phone rang as I was getting dressed. I got out of changing in the locker room and riding up to the field in the bus. I was glad. I hated that bus.
It was quiet for a minute. "Yes?" I encouraged her to speak.
"What're you doing tonight?" She asked.
"Got a game."
"Yeah. Hunt called me earlier."
And it was quiet again.
"I better go." I said. The house phone rang. "Bye."
"Bye." Octavia's voice was timid. I hung up my phone and went into the hallway to grab the other.
"Hello?" I said, brushing my hair off of my face.
"Hey. This Malcolm?"
"Yeah." Pause. "Who's this?"
"Jayce." Another pause. "Hunt asked me to take you to the field."
"You got me." Jayce said. "Are you ready?"
"I'll be over in a few."
"Bye." Jayce hung up.
I set the phone in its cradle and went downstairs. I already had my things together.
That day had been one of the weirdest days of my life. And I don't really know why it was. Everything felt so skewed, so out of the norm for some reason. I feared it was only going to get weirder. Something crawling around inside of me told me to keep an eye out. Octavia's pointless phone call really perplexed me. I could only assume that she was going to the game that evening. Part of me really wondered why, since Nathan was going to be there, too. It wouldn't be a good night if she came.
As time passed, the feeling that I was making a big mistake grew larger and larger inside of me. I felt like I was going to burst when Jayce's car pulled up. I was tired, thirsty, hungry and did I mention tired? I couldn't play. Not today anyway. I need a nap. A nice, long nap. Maybe a vanilla milkshake and a thick, medium-well done hamburger. With pickles.
God I was so hungry.
Grabbing a bagel (which I would later find to be stale) off of the counter, I went out the door. I called out to whomever that I was leaving. I was sure dad had heard.
I threw my stuff into the back of Jayce's car and sat down in the passenger's seat. I bit into my crusty bagel. It could have been better, but I really didn't care. Not that day.
"So why'd you miss school today?"
"It's Monday." I said after I swallowed. "I think."
Jayce just grinned. He backed out quickly from my driveway and headed over to the baseball fields across town.
Whether you've gathered this already or not, I like Jayce. He's… When I started high school, I thought that I'd stick with my Jon/Mercedes clique and pretty much wouldn't mingle with the upperclassmen. That was, for the most part, the case until Octavia and I got together. Suddenly, I was talking with everyone. Well, not everyone, but it wasn't an issue of me being a freshman anymore. And Jayce was so… warm and friendly. He talked to me like we'd been best buds since pre-school and that because of our little "secret", we had some sort of bond that I wouldn't have with another guy.
I guess that doesn't make any sense, really. But Jayce. I trusted him. And I enjoyed his company. Immensely.
"You nervous?" He asked, halfway to the field. We were at a stoplight. Jayce lit up a cigarette.
"Not really." I said. "But I guess. Sort of."
"Want one?" He offered me a cigarette. "It'll calm you down a bit."
"That's okay." I declined. My last experience with smoking went up in flames, literally, and took my house with it. I didn't feel like starting another fire.
Jayce just shrugged and threw the cigarette on the dashboard.
"Where do you get those? You're not eighteen, are you?"
"No. Friend of mine is, though."
I just nodded, and the light turned green. We got down to the field just as the bus with the rest of the team did. Coach came over to Jayce's car.
"Parker, I got you in the first few innings, okay?" He looked over his clipboard. "I know you'll cream 'em, I know. Then we can send Dodge in." He glanced at me, but looked back at Jayce. "Give you a break, so you can go back in, in case he screws up." He looked at me again. "But you won't, right?"
"I don't plan on it." I said.
"Good." Coach nodded. He looked at Jayce. "Go get the laps in. Dodge, you're with me."
Adjusting my hat on my head, I followed Hunt to the dugout. The sun was out. It was burning my back, so I was glad to get in the shade.
"So you feelin' good?" Hunt asked, rubbing my shoulders. I just nodded. "You just walk off the second you start feeling even the slightest bit funny, okay?"
"I know." I nodded again.
"Good. Now help me set up the roster."
I just nodded again, trying to be polite, and Hunt and I put the guys in their places. I saw Nathan on the list and my blood started to boil. I looked up and saw him throwing a ball to someone else, number 12. I glared at him under the brim of my hat, half hoping he'd just explode into a billion tiny, ugly, unrepairable pieces. And then I looked for Octavia. The stands were still a little sparse, the game wouldn't start for at least half an hour, but I half expected her to be there. But she wasn't. I tried not to think about it.
We put Nathan in the outfield on the left, after I argued that Cary would make the better shortstop because he was stealthy. Nathan was too much of a box to be swift. Hunt looked at me odd for a minute, but nodded in agreement that Nathan was, in fact, too boxy. Nathan would be pissed, I was sure, but I didn't care. Hunt had the last word – he could get pissed at him.
The other team showed up, and Hunt told everyone their positions. It was evident that as soon as Cary was announced as shortstop, Nathan was fuming. A couple other players were surprised, but ultimately no one was fazed, except for Nathan, of course. He mumbled something about bringing a folding chair and some lemonade on the field since he'd get "no action."
The game started, and everyone took their place. I sat down with the JV team (who had to show up to all Varsity games) and the few (un)lucky players who were cast Varsity but would probably never play a game that year. I glanced in the stands again, which was completely full. I saw my dad there, talking to some guy, I didn't know whom. Octavia wasn't there.
And for some reason, at that moment, it really bothered me. She wanted to kiss and make up so everything between us could be better again and she wasn't even at my game? I wished I could just get over her, though. I looked out of the field and saw Nathan, way out, standing like a queer in the field. She still liked him, and he wanted her. I told myself to just let it go.
The game started and Jayce pitched the first inning flawlessly. He struck out the first two batters without a problem, and got the third out on second when the idiot tried to steal. Before I knew it, the team was running back in to the dugout and readying up to bat. Nathan sat down right next to me. I stiffened slightly, but tried to relax. He couldn't do anything to me during the game.
We both sat there in silence, until the first batter went up. Nathan clapped his hand and cheered him on with the majority of the team. I bent over and rested my forearms on my knees. I tried to think about the game, instead of the bear sitting beside me.
Someone came and told Nathan the he would be up shortly, and handed him a helmet. Nathan took it and pushed it over his head. He stood up and kicked my ankle lightly.
"We need to talk." He muttered, strapping a glove onto his hand. He grabbed a bat and walked out of the dugout.
By the fifth inning, we were winning 5-2. Nathan stayed in the outfield and Jayce kept pitching and Octavia still wasn't there. Every time the team came in, Nathan would sit down next to me, but he wouldn't say a word. I expected him to start talking, since he felt that we needed to do such, but he never said a word to me.
In the sixth inning, Coach put me in halfway through. It was obvious Jayce was getting a little tired. The time-out he called was unexpected, though. I wasn't even ready. Coach had just hit my shoulder and then ran on to the field. Hunt talked to Jayce and the catcher, Greg Thatcher, and then Hunt and Jayce walked off the field.
"Good luck." Jayce told me as he walked by. He hit my shoulder and I walked on to the field. Adjusting the brim of my cap, I heard people talking. Word had gotten around that I was "sick." I think about three people really knew why I was sick, but being sick was enough for people to whisper. Greg walked over to me when I got to the mound. He lifted up his mask. His face was dirty.
"Feelin' ready?" He asked, hitting the ball into his oversized mitt.
"Yeah." I said, feeling the heat of the sun warm my left side. My heart was beating hard. I was nervous. I didn't want to fuck things up. This was the first time I had pitched with a batter actually being there in almost three weeks. The scrimmage was successful and all…but I just couldn't shake the uneasiness. This was our first real live game… I couldn't screw things up.
Greg got back behind home plate and threw me the ball. I caught it in my mitt and the batter stepped up to the plate. He practiced his swing a few times and then got into his stance. I looked at Greg, then closed my eyes. I knew everybody was looking at me. Even the visitors knew that I was sick – they probably didn't even know my name! I was the freshman pitcher on Varsity and something was wrong with me.
I tried to block it out, nodded to Greg and straightened up. I let out the air in my lungs slowly as I lowered my hands to my stomach. Without thinking about it, I wound up and threw the ball as hard as I could.
"Strike one!" I heard someone call. The crowd applauded, all still halfway on edge, waiting for me to collapse. Greg threw the ball back to me, and in two more pitches, I was on to my second batter.
I was back in the dugout three batters later and the score was still 5-2. I sat down and took my cap off. Jayce came and sat down beside me.
"You did good." He said. "Feel all right?"
"Yeah." I said. I was numb, really. My nerves were still wired up. I let out a slow breath and tried to watch the game. I was waiting for my dad to come over, half hoping he would, and half hoping he wouldn't. I didn't want him to worry about me, but I wanted to tell him I felt numb. My whole body was numb.
I drank some water, a lot of water actually, and was back out on the mound. This inning lasted a little longer, but their team didn't score on me. I struck out two batters in the beginning. It felt good to sit down afterwards. Jayce came over and told me I did all right. Nathan didn't sit down next to me. He was batting.
"Hey," someone behind me said. I turned around and saw my dad. "You okay?"
I nodded. "I guess."
Dad crouched down and looked at me through the fencing. "You guess?"
I shrugged my shoulders. Jayce was listening in. "If you don't feel up to it, don't play." Jayce said. "I can go back in."
I shook my head. "It's not that. It's just hot, that's all."
"Drink some water." Dad said. "Don't go back out if you don't feel you can."
"I know." I said, clearing my throat. I took my hat off and rubbed my palm over my forehead. I drank some of the water, lukewarm, and looked back at my dad, who was still watching me closely. I grinned and rolled my eyes.
"I'm fine." I said sternly, smiling to him. "Really."
I wanted him to say not to go out. I wanted him to tell the coach I wasn't feeling good and he didn't want me to play. But he didn't. He just nodded and went back to his seat on the stands. I didn't know how to feel about that. I was glad that he trusted me to make my own decisions, but sometimes, I just wanted him to take care of everything for me.
"Okay, Dodge, let's go!" Hunt said, clapping his hands. I hadn't even noticed. I placed my hat on my dome and slid my hand in to my mitt. I sucked it up and played the rest of the game without complaining, or passing out. We won 9-4.
I had to ride back to the high school with the rest of the team. I didn't want to, but Hunt made me. Jayce said he'd give me a ride back home. Hunt just gave everyone a quick pep talk, told us to keep up the great work, and sent us on our way. Some of the guys were going out to celebrate, but I didn't want to. I was walking to Jayce's car, when someone called my name.
Turning around, I saw Nathan walking towards me. I sucked in a quick breath and held it in my lungs.
"Yeah?" I asked as he approached.
"Can we talk?"
I just nodded and Nathan walked away. I guessed I was supposed to follow him. We didn't go far, just away from the guys but still in sight. Good. At least he wasn't planning on trying to beat me up again.
"Listen," Nathan started. "I can't go like this. I got a scholarship offer and if I keep playing outfield I'm never gonna get it. I don't know what you said you Hunt, but you need to change his mind back and give me shortstop."
"Why would I?"
"I know I was an asshole to you, but I'm sorry, all right. You can have Octavia."
"I don't want her." I lied.
Nathan stumbled over his words for a second, obviously not knowing what to say to me. "I don't want her either."
It was quiet for a minute. I looked down at my feet and tapped my toe on the pavement.
"I know this is a long shot," he finally spoke up, "but can we just…put it all behind us?"
It was at the moment that he offered me his hand. I looked at his hand, outstretched to me, waiting. I looked back up at him. "You're a great guy, okay? You're a great player, nice kid, people like you and everybody keeps telling me to lay off. They're right, all right? I'm apologizing to you. Just…accept it." He pushed his hand closer. "Please."
I shook his hand without really thinking. I hoped, though, he'd stick to his word.
Nathan grinned, shaking my hand, and let go. "Do you need a ride home?"
"Jayce is giving me one." I said, motioning back. "Thanks, though."
"Anytime." He said. "See you at school tomorrow."
He walked away, and I watched him. Jayce pulled up beside me just as Nathan was getting into his car. Nathan waved to me. I waved back, opening the car door.
"What was that all about?"
"I don't know." I said, buckling my seat belt.
"You played good." Jayce told me. "You coming to school tomorrow?"
"I don't know."
"You sure you don't want to get a bite to eat?"
"I'm sure." I said. "Thanks, though."
Jayce just nodded as he lit up a cigarette. I watched him for a minute as he leaned back in the driver's seat and blew the gray smoke out of his mouth slowly.
"Can I have one?" I asked, feeling stupid. Jayce just nodded, not thinking twice, and I took one from the carton and stuck it between my lips.
"Ever smoked before?" He asked.
"Once." I said.
"What was it?"
"I don't know. Aaron gave it to me."
"Didn't like it?"
"I don't remember." I paused, thinking about telling him what had happened. But I couldn't. "My mom came into my room as soon as I lit it up and I had to throw it out the window."
"That sucks." Jayce said. He handed me the lighter. I placed the stick in my lips and brought the flame up to the end. Once it caught, I breathed in and felt the scratchy, toxic air go down my throat. I coughed.
I took the cigarette out of my mouth and cleared my throat a few times, feeling embarrassed for coughing, but Jayce didn't say anything. He didn't even look when I coughed.
I choked down the rest of the cigarette and my legs felt warm and relaxed when I flicked the butt out of the window. Jayce pulled up my driveway a minute later and I saw someone on the porch. Jayce didn't notice. I didn't see anyone's car in the driveway, though.
"So, maybe see you tomorrow." He said, grinning to me. "Take it easy, huh?"
"I will." I said, grinning back. I grabbed my things from the backseat and shut the door. Swinging my bag over my shoulder, Jayce pulled out of the driveway and honked as he drove off. I had forgotten about the stranger on the porch swing until I got to the top of the stairs. Someone sniffed.
"Octavia?" I questioned, setting my bag down beside my feet.
She was sitting on the porch swing and her shoulders were trembling. She tucked her strawberry blonde locks behind her ears and I saw mascara on her cheeks. She looked up at me and bit her lip. She was a mess.
She didn't answer me, instead, ran over and cried loudly into my shoulder. Her body wracked in sobs, so I held her. I tried to quiet her down, running circles on her back with my hand, but it wasn't helping. We stood there for what felt like forever until she finally calmed down. We sat down on the porch swing and she wiped her eyes with a Kleenex she had and breathed shakily.
Her bloodshot eyes finally met mine, and they started to water up. "It's Jordan."
A/N: It's been forever, I know. Sorry about the terribly long wait. I don't expect too many reviews due to my procrastination, but if you read, please review! This story only has a few more chapters, and depending on the outcome, there may or may not be a sequel. I hope you stick with me! Thanks so much! Love ya!