It had been a long night for Elliott. If you asked him how he felt about it….he'd probably laugh and shake his head. No word could describe the hell he'd endured tonight, at least no word in HIS vocabulary. But it had been bad—bad enough for him to drive his beloved 1985 Chevrolet Camaro 213 miles north to California, with all his belongings in the backseat. Why California? He couldn't tell you. He'd driven until he ran out of gas, filled the tank back up, and then kept going. And now, here he was, on a little beach that was technically private property. At least, that's what the sign had said. But he couldn't be bothered with that, not after a night like tonight. As he walked and walked, he thought he heard something. "Huh….sounds familiar…" he mumbled to himself, as his feet shuffled in the direction of the quiet song.
Out on his deck, Connor mumbled a curse word quietly as his guitar hit a bad note. He had just learned the song this afternoon, after hearing it on the radio. It was "Miserable At Best" by Mayday Parade, and he'd once again related to the lyrics. But he was still messing up. "I've got a lot of work to do on this one," he whispered to the sandy tan acoustic in his lap, giving his head a gentle toss to move his bangs away from his eyes. As he continued to strum, singing the words softly, something caught his attention down by the ocean. As he peeked over the rail on his deck, he spotted a tall, short haired boy in the distance. "What is he doing here?" he thought to himself, suddenly nervous. Connor had never done well in social situations, and most of the time he just ended up stuttering and looking at his feet. It was embarrassing, and he hated it. As he stole another glance at the boy, he realized he was still playing his guitar, chords softly ringing into the night. It was then that the boy looked up, and Connor felt his insides start to churn. "Oh no…spotted. Damn."
Elliott stared at the boy for a minute before it clicked that he was more than likely trespassing. "Oh shit…..hey….I swear I'm not here to make trouble or anything." He held his hands up to show he meant no harm, and it was then that he noticed the boy flinch. He lowered his voice, walking closer to the deck so that he could be heard. "I heard you playing, by the way. You're really good, you know that?" Connor felt himself blush as he toyed with the pick in his hands, struggling to form words as he stared down at Elliott. "U-uh, thanks….i-it was nothing special.." he managed to choke out, visibly trembling. Elliott looked around, his eyes falling onto a wooden staircase that led up to the deck. "Hey, could I come up? Truth be told…..I'm not even sure where I am right now. I swear, I'm not drunk or anything! Just….kinda lost, actually. Thinking I'm not in Kansas anymore" He laughed softly, despite the throbbing in his head and the adrenaline that still coursed through him, hours later. "One hell of a night," he thought to himself.
Connor nodded his head, straightening the pillows in the chair next to him. "I'm speaking to someone….he hasn't run screaming yet…..what do I do?" he whispered to himself as he tidied his porch, his heart hammering in his chest. He was scared, scared of everything. He had just invited a stranger up to his porch, for crying out loud! He didn't know how to interact with people….especially not someone his own age. It took him back to the sessions he'd had with Ms. Ranne, his therapist. Most of their appointments had consisted of her talking, with the occasional nod or shake from Connor. Eventually, he'd just stopped going to them. Even after two years, he couldn't bring himself to speak to her. So why was he trusting this stranger? He set the guitar down in his chair as Elliott climbed up the stairs, trying to remember what his Mother did when she had company over. "U-uh…..want something to drink? I've g-got all kinds of stuff inside, I could r-run and get it…" Connor mumbled, biting his lip.
Elliott blinked for a minute, forgetting how to speak. "Damn…he's shaking like a leaf! I'm a moron…no wonder he's freaked out! I just traipsed through his backyard in the middle of the night and invited myself right on up…..I shouldn't even be here." He thought to himself, cursing inwardly. "Hey..are you alright? You look kinda pale…I'm sorry if I'm causing you trouble or something. I can go…" Elliott looked at the boy, eyes full of concern. Connor's eyes went wide. "I did something wrong…he wants to leave! I messed up again!" He thought, beginning to panic. Before he could stop himself, he was blurting out words, his voice louder than he would have liked. "N-NO! I mean…a-ah….it's not your fault! I'm just no good at this, and I don't t-talk to p-people much…p-please….you don't have to go! I can get you a drink! I'm f-fine, really! Just…nervous. It's been a w-while since I've h-had company….I'll calm down in a bit! I'm sorry!"
The taller boy jumped a bit, startled by his sudden outburst. He mulled over it for a second before reaching out and gently touching the smaller boy's arm, keeping his voice gentle. "Hey….you don't have to be so nervous. I won't go anywhere, and you're doing just fine. Really. I'm no one special, you don't need to worry about me." he chuckled, sitting down on a nearby lounge chair. When he looked up, he realized he could see the boy in front of him much better now that he was sitting near a light. He was about five foot tall, with soft looking brown hair perfectly framing his round face. Two large, green eyes were focused on his small hands, which were fiddling with the string on his black hoodie. He had full looking lips, which were fixed into a nervous frown, and he wasn't wearing any shoes. His skinny jeans pooled at his ankles, obviously made for someone a bit taller.
"Damn…." He thought to himself. "He's adorable….ah, shit. Don't do this, Elliott. You don't even know his name." And it was then he remembered that he hadn't even introduced himself to this cute stranger. Elliott held out his hand, gazing up at him, making sure to keep his voice soft. "My name is Elliott, by the way….Elliott McMillan. I figured we shouldn't be strangers anymore, eh?" He grinned at him, standing up and giving a clumsy bow. Connor felt himself blush as he watched Elliott bow, calming down a bit as he got used to the boy's presence. "M-my name is Connor….Connor James Parker. A-ah, but I don't really go by CJ….I m-mean, my Mom still calls me CJ! But no o-one else really does….I mean, y-you can call me what you want! Connor works!"
Elliott smiled at him, touching his shoulder and letting his thoughts take over again as he listened. "Damn….he's so cute." "Connor, huh? Nice name….I like it. And aww, CJ is cute. I never had a nicknames like that, especially not one my folks gave me." He laughed bitterly at this, rubbing his cheek, which was already starting to bruise from this evening's encounters. Connor spotted the darkening skin, his eyes widening. "Oh man! Are you alright….I've got ice! I'll get you ice for that! That looks bad.." he mumbled before rushing inside, emerging a second later with an icepack and a bottle of water, handing both to him with shaky hands.
As he pressed the icepack to his swollen face, Elliott looked over at Connor, who now held the guitar again. He guessed it was because he needed something to hold in his hands to occupy himself—he'd been fidgeting all night. "You can play you know….you really were good. I'd love to hear something. And you don't have to be so nervous, really. I told you before, I'm nothing special." Connor looked over at him, his heart skipping a beat. "That's where you're wrong," he thought to himself, "Most people would have laughed and run off by now…they wouldn't put up with all my stuttering and spazzing out. You've got to be something special if you're still here." He paused, gathering his courage for a moment before starting to play, hands trembling from the nerves. He'd never played in front of someone before—he'd go with a song he wouldn't screw up. "The Last Song Ever", by Secondhand Serenade was a good choice, he thought. Before he knew what he was doing, he was singing along quietly, the words coming out naturally, the high notes flawlessly.
Elliott watched him, finding himself speechless again. The boy was good, very good. He was hitting all the notes without a problem, and he had a beautiful, soft voice, perfect for the song he'd chosen. As he strummed at the guitar, the taller boy found his eyes transfixed on his fingers. Slender, tiny fingers…moving effortlessly over the strings. They glided over the neck of the guitar as he changed notes, his foot bobbing in time with the song. It wasn't one he'd heard before, but at that moment he decided it would be his new favorite song. "There's just something about those hands that's got me lost…." He thought, eyes closing as his mind wandered. He nodded his head with the music, finding that he'd nearly forgotten everything that had happened that night. This boy was something special, indeed.
As Connor finished off the song with a high note, realization came flooding back to him. Blood rushed to his cheeks as he discovered he'd been singing, hands going up to his mouth, a tiny gasp escaping from his lips. Almost immediately, Elliott reached up and snatched his hand away, holding it in his own, larger hand. "Hey….don't be embarrassed. That was REALLY good, man. Not even exaggerating. I don't even know that song….but I think you just made it my favorite. That guitar was spot on….you've got serious talent. And you know something else? You're one hell of a singer, too." The taller boy told him, holding his hand in his own, warm brown eyes shining sincerely. He meant that…..every word—Connor could tell. He could spot a liar a mile away, and Elliott was telling him the truth.
"He liked it…..he really liked it!" he cheered himself on inwardly, managing to stutter out a thank you, not even noticing their joined hands. This was all so much….he'd talked tonight, more than he'd spoken in the past month, even! All in just one night! And he'd played his guitar for someone else….and SANG. He felt woozy, but it was a very good feeling. All of this was just overwhelming him, and he was making leaps and bounds tonight. He wished for a moment that Elliott could know how much he was accomplishing, how every single word he said to him was a milestone he never thought he'd get past. He wished he could show him how much all this meant to him…..and he wanted the taller boy to feel this way, too. This was something he hadn't felt in a LONG time, and he wasn't sure he remembered what to do next. Luckily, Elliott did.