A.N.: This is a special update!
Today is the day Chapter 00 takes places - as in, the day Oscar meets Jean in the school toilet and his life changes forever.
So I hope you joy in the celebration and enjoy this little gift of a chapter. As a nice bonus, it focuses on Oscar and Jean's relationship too!
(It wasn't intentional, but worked really well for the occasion).
They hugged for a long time, until Oliver's grandfather decided to ask for some attention too. Oliver's coming out could not have been better. He had the unconditional love and acceptance of his family, and he was finally free to be himself among them. I wanted to be happy for him. I wanted to be glad that he was lucky, that his birthday party turned out to be a good day after all the earlier struggle. I wanted to celebrate with him the fact that he had an amazing family who would stand by him no matter what.
But all I managed was to run to the back garden before the tears and the pain became too much for me. I did not want to spoil Oliver's happiness with the flashbacks of what my own family did to me, or how no amount of acceptance would change the fact that my parents would rather see me dead than let me be my own self.
The cold air hit me on the face as soon as I stepped out into the backyard. The overgrown grass was wet from the recent rain and quickly soaked my slippers. A squirrel stared at me from the bins in the corner, holding a half-eaten savaged chip millimetres from its face. Traffic sounds were muffled, as if far in the distance instead of right in front of Oliver's doorstep.
The pain in my chest was worse than any kick or punch I'd ever received. It cut the air from my lungs and made my head spin. Joseph's voice echoed in my mind with praises, memories of a past where I was a star student with a brilliant future ahead. Bile rose up in my throat like fire.
Those words meant nothing to him. They never did. Words, no matter how pleasing, could never carry the same warmth of the hugs Oliver shared with his family. Words got carried away by the wind, and disappeared once they could no longer be heard. From Joseph, only my scars were forever.
How was this fair? Why did Oliver get hugs and I get death threats? How could Joseph not accept me, let his love speak louder than his hatred for the son he used to be so proud of? He never really loved me, did he? And Claire…
"Looks like I'm not the only one who likes to run away." Jean approached with a small smile in his lips, so unlike the usual sexual grin it was almost disturbing. The back door closed behind him as he came to stand next to me. How did I not hear it opening? "I don't think anyone noticed you slipping away. They're all so happy about Oliver they can't see anything else."
"But you can?"
Jean reached behind my back to grab my opposite shoulder in a half-hug. His touch was incredibly warm for someone who wore just his usual thin, form-fitting shirt, skinny jeans, and white socks (which already looked even wetter and muddier than my slippers). "I don't see what the fuss is all about. But I do see that sentimental lovingly famiyling moments still make you wish your blood family hadn't spilled your blood."
Did he need to say it like that? "So you came for me? Why?"
"I'm not sure, actually. Do you know?" Jean blinked. What kind of joke was that?
"If it were anyone else, I would say you came to help me feel better."
He grinned. "No, this is no time to fuck in the backyard, as much as I would like to do it one day." Jean's arm squeezed me, but his usual sexual vibe wasn't there at all. "I guess I thought… whatever. Forget it."
"You still can't let go of your feelings for your not-parents, no matter how much we tell you they don't deserve those feelings, right?"
I nodded, but Jean was no longer looking at me. "What are you trying to say?"
"It's hard to forget those we once loved. Even more so when people keep telling us they did more harm than good. At least in your case, that's true."
"Are you talking about yourself?"
"I don't want to forget him. Edgar can say all he wants about how what he did was horrible and wrong, but it never felt that way to me. I guess I thought that maybe you felt something similar, that… that you knew what it was like not being able to let go of the best feeling of your life." Jean looked up at the cloudy sky, his head leaning against mine.
"I… those hugs… they were too much for me. I'm happy for Oliver, but at the same time…"
"At the same time, you want those hugs too. You want that person to hug you and love you the way you remember, and it's really unfair they got taken away from you."
"You just told me Joseph doesn't deserve those feelings."
"I know. But it doesn't make you stop feeling that way."
"No, I guess it doesn't." I leaned my head against his too, and held him by the waist. He still felt much warmer than it should have been possible.
"At least you want to stop feeling that way. So maybe one day you will. And then you'll be able to see other families being happy without feeling like they're tearing your heart to shreds."
"Is that how you feel?"
"Edgar took away my family. He wants to be my new father, but he can't… he doesn't understand me, and he never will."
"You sound really sure about that."
"I've been trying to make him fuck me for four years now. If he's resisted my allure for that long, it's never going to happen."
I finally realised what kind of feeling Jean was talking about. It had been so easy to just listen to his words, to feel how easily they fit my own feelings and my situation, and how we could relate to each other, that I completely forgot Jean had been talking about the 'Boss' who had had sex with his seven-year-old self within minutes of meeting him. The nausea came back, and I struggled to set myself free from him. "You're sick."
Jean's eyes widened for a second, and then his whole face turned colder than the air around us. "I knew I shouldn't have said anything. You don't understand it either. Well, go back to suffering your pain alone, then."
Jean threw the door open. It banged against the wall, then closed on my face.
"Have you seen Jean?" I asked Henry, back in the Viñas's living room. Oliver was still at the centre of a large group of relatives, laughing and blushing as he talked about his life. Nobody seemed to notice the two disappearing guests amidst so much noise and cheerfulness. I thought Jean had gone back inside, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Henry eyed me suspiciously. "Why are you looking for him?" His eyes landed on my muddied, soaked slippers I forgot to leave by the door. "Have you been out? Were you two─'
"It's not what you're thinking. Not at all." Henry raised an eyebrow. I couldn't blame him for being suspicious when even I had trouble believing my own words. "We were in the backyard, but he was trying to help me, and I think… I think I hurt him and I want to apologise."
"He's sitting under the big tree in front of Sam's window. I saw him going there, and I thought I should go check on him, but I guess you want to do it instead."
"Yes. Thanks, Henry."
I left Oliver's flat, once again unnoticed. Jean had dashed from the backyard to the front of the building, crossing the small landing without bothering to go inside again. He was just as Henry described: sitting with his back against the huge tree, hands on his knees, with his head tilted back. Around him, most of the leaves from the trees were already on the ground, creating a yellow mushy mess that covered the whole pavement. Jean didn't seem to care that his trousers were getting as dirty and wet as his socks, though.
"Jean." I called after him, but he didn't react in any way. His body was turned towards the road. "Jean!" I called again, and stepped onto the wet ground.
He turned to me with an unwelcoming growl. "What do you want?"
"I'm sorry about what I said before. You caught me by surprise, and I─"
"But that's still what you think, isn't it? You, and Edgar, and Henry, and everyone else. You all think I'm a sick monster." He frowned when I couldn't answer. "I thought so."
"I should've known you would be like all the others. Our situations aren't even that similar. I shouldn't hope─"
"I really thought you understood me for a while. When you were talking about having a loved one taken away… I felt that way too. It hurt me so much because a person I loved tore himself away from me. I never saw it coming, I never asked for it. And it's because of you that I now realise that."
Jean's face remained cold. "You're welcome. Now go away."
"I'm really sorry."
Jean stood up and slowly walked the few steps that separated us, taking his time to stare into my eyes. His own eyes seemed watery under the yellow street lamps and post-sunset creeping darkness, but it was so hard to believe that someone like Jean could be on the verge of tears that I dismissed it as a trick of the light. His hand brushed a strand of hair behind my ear and fell limply by his side. "Do you even know what it is like to finally decide it might be safe to talk about things you've never said out loud, only to have the person you trusted push you away and call you sick? Do you know what it is like to feel the glimmer of hope that… that for the first time in four years I'd be able to voice my true feelings… only to have that trust betrayed?"
"You're crying." This time, there was no mistaking the solitary tear for what it was as it rolled down Jean's cheek, even as he tried to hide it by closing his eyes.
"So what? Am I such a monster to you that you don't think I can be hurt?" His tears fell freely, and I was stricken by such a heavy guilt that it pressed against my chest and made it harder to breath.
"I'm sorry. I had no idea, I wasn't thinking!"
"He warned me once that I shouldn't trust anybody else. No one would ever understand me. He was right. He is always right."
How could Jean have such strong feelings for someone so repulsive, for such a… such a monster. There was no other word to describe that man, as cliché as it was.
But the same was true for Joseph.
And so Jean's tears became my own. Once again I felt we shared something, as deep and disturbing as it was, that no one else around us did. As much as I thought it was wrong and messed up for him to genuinely, deeply love his abuser more than anyone else, I understood. That part of me that still loved Joseph and Claire, that bled every time I remembered our good times together, and that wanted to keep loving them despite all the horrible things they did… That part of me understood and shared his pain.
I pulled Jean in for a hug. He didn't protest. "You're not really sick."
"I'll see if I can believe that."
A.N.: Thanks for reading!
What do you think of Jean and Oscar Jean and Oscar opening up to each other? What could off it?
I hope the chapter was worthy of the occasion (and I definitely hope people haven't forgotten about the story after such a long break...). Unfortunately it'll be a while before I work on the next chapter, as I am prioritising The Orchestra for the time being. I expect to be back to this story during 2017, though, and feedback from this chapter would go a long way on my motivation to make sure that happens (no pressure...)
Have a lovely week, everyone!