The Difficulty of Growing Up

Chapter 16

"..Looking good, Hoods!" Carl said encouragingly as Hoodsey checked himself out in the mirror the hand-held mirror the piercer gave to him so he could see the finished product.

"You think so?" Hoodsey asked uncertainly as he examined his right ear.

"No doubt about it. That is exactly what you needed. You look a little tougher and the hair cut was a good idea as well since you don't really wear a hoodie anymore. Hopefully this will help your bullying problem."

"I wear a hoodie sometimes.. I just choose not to wear the hood part. I can’t really wear one anyway until this heals up." Hoodsey said as they left the piercing and tattoo parlor. "...I'm kind of hoping that nothing is going to be happening around here.. 'Cause I am going to be grounded for a loooong time after tonight."

"I'm sure we are going to go right back to being swamped with homework after Monday any way. Just enjoy yourself, Hoods.. You deserved it."

"You know.. It didn't hurt as bad as I thought it would."

"And barely any blood either! Hey, wanna grab some ice cream before leaving?"

"I might as well, It's not like I am going to be able to for a while.."

As anticipated, Hoodsey didn't get very far without his mother seeing what he had done that afternoon. By Joanne's words, he was grounded from every activity after school. He was to come straight home and not leave the house for about three weeks since he refused to take the earring out right then and there.

"As long as you live in my house and you follow my rules, Robert Joseph! No ands, ifs, or buts about it!" Hoodsey recited into the walkie talkie, imitating his mother. Carl had called him after he got home from that eventful afternoon.

"Hey, you’re pretty good at that hoods. I think I actually cringed a little."

"Well, Duh, Carl. I've been living with her for thirteen years now." Hoodsey said but then he released a slight chuckle. "I can't believe I did it..."

"How does it feel to defy the strongest force in your life for once?" Carl asked in a sly tone.

"Liberating." Hoodsey sighed. "My ear hurts though."

"A couple pain relievers should help that."

"No can do... My mom hid all of our medication from me..."

"Ooo... Ouch.. She really did that, Huh?" Carl asked. "Tough it out for the night and I will be able to deliver some Advil to you, via your window in the morning."

"How nice of you."

"What are best friends for, Hoods?"

As promised, the next morning Carl dug out his old slingshot and pelted a small bottle of pain relievers through Hoodsey's open window. Once he succeeded he disappeared in a flash. He walked over to The Gripling's residence only to see Blake was out on a family affair downtown. So he just ended up walking around town alone for half of the morning. Since when has he spent a day from a long weekend doing nothing? It was such a waste.

"Hey Carl!" a rather high pitched and incredibly familiar voice rang out from a few feet away. Carl silently cursed himself as he stopped in his tracks. What is with him recently?

"Higsby, What could I do for you this fine morning?"

"I don't want anything from you, silly. I'm just wondering what you're doing today because I was hoping-"

"No can do, Brand-o. I'm booked solid for the day." Carl lied with extreme ease, He shoved his hands in his pockets and walked off leaving Brandon behind him but soon enough He was practically prancing by his side. Carl just cast a clearly annoyed expression at him as they walked across the street.

"I have a hard time believing that for some reason." He countered. "I was hoping that you would like to help me with something. You see, I had a rather – interesting conversation with Blake on Friday at the country club and-"

"Okaaay, I have no interest in whom you talk to no matter the subject. So if you don't mind, I have some rather important things to discuss with my accomplices A.S.A.P." Carl said cutting Brandon off at the hook.

"Even if the subject might include you, indirectly..?" Higsby asked in a sly tone that seemed to be really out of character for him. A ton of thoughts flooded Carl's mind but he maintained his aloof composure and he allowed himself to turn around and scowl at the slightly shorter brunette. Brandon just grinned at him with the most innocent of looks.

"No... Not at all. Later Higsby... much later..." Carl said simply as he turned the corner, alone thankfully. Now he was curious and for some unknown reason he was also feeling kind of embarrassed. Winston told him that Blake would be home at around five o'clock, He needed to know what had happened.

"I think I remember what your referring to.. It's really nothing.. Though, I might have said something because he made me feel rather uneasy. No matter.. I was in public and with my parents.. I wouldn't say anything too intense.." Blake said, Carl sighed and sat on the edge of his bed holding the phone close to his ear to make sure he hears everything clearly.

"So, Higsby is trying to get under my skin." Carl stated into the phone. He had called Blake at around five-thirty that evening. Carl was seething inside.

"Here is a thought.. he might be jealous. I don't know, I just feel something is going on in that boy's mind..."

"That does not surprise me." Carl fell backwards into a laying position on his bed as he immersed himself in thought. "So, Blakey-boy.. Why on earth have you been so busy recently?"

"Why? Are you so hopelessly missing me already?" Blake asked in a smug tone, he could picture Blake with a smirk he rarely uses anymore since a year ago.

"Tsk." Carl snorted at the remark, Blake only laughed a little.

"Quite alright, Carl. I am only picking on you. If you must know, my father has been on my tail since I got home Thursday. He is just insisting that I run his errands with him and they are so very boring.. You can trust that I would rather be spending my time on ..other.. activities." Blake drawled in a slightly suggestive tone.

"Oh yeah? Care to enlighten me?" Carl asked, acting oblivious but knowing exactly what he is referring to.

"Ha. As if I would tell you." Blake said, totally self-satisfied. Carl raised an eyebrow as if Blake was right there next to him, he hasn't been this flirty and tough to talk to in a long while, but he was digging it. He only smirked.

"Do as you wish, just know that you are terrible at hiding such things." Carl said slowly. "I will leave you with that. Have a good night, Blakey-boy."

"Good night, Carl." Blake said with the slightest waver in his tone before hanging up the phone, leaving the phone to buzz in Carl's ear until he too hung up the phone with a click of a button, a smirk making its way across his face.

"Of course, Macie. But do keep in mind that Robert Joseph is grounded until further notice. He is not to have any guests, but Deirdre is upstairs in her room like always." Hoodsey listened to the faint voice of his mother talking downstairs. He rolled his eyes but grinned when he realized Macy was here. "I'll be up with some snacks for you two."

"Soy products?" Macie asked.

"Oh yes, of course, dear."

"Thanks, Mrs. Bishop!" Macie said with a small laugh as she rushed up the stairs, he heard her rush passed his room. He felt slightly disappointed until his door opened quietly and closed just as quietly. Macie stood against the door and grinned at him. He smiled and stood up from his desk, she gasped.

"What?" He asked. She shushed him and approached him, her eye on his ear.

"Is that real?" She whispered. He nodded.

"Wooow.." She breathed and released a giggle. "Looks pretty good. I guess this is the reason you’re so heavily grounded."

"You really like it?" He asked in a hushed tone.

"It's hot." She said approvingly. Hoodsey felt his face grow warm at the compliment. "I can't stay long. But-" She placed a swift kiss on his lips and waved shyly before disappearing from his room, leaving him in the silence. He grinned to himself, he was so enthralled with her. He wondered if she felt the same about him.

School was so boring to Carl. His best friend was incapable of doing anything most of the month and Blake was STILL busy with his father. He wondered if Blake was trying to reassure him of anything by hanging out with him. He was happy that they were mostly getting along and his home-life was once again comfortable but he kind of wanted to hang out with his boyfriend sometime, he would never admit to it out loud of course. He wasn't that much of a softy no matter how he is perceived. He couldn't help how uncomfortable he was with himself recently. It's like his company reassured him that he was a good person to be around or something. Why must he have these self-conflicts right now? Puberty was a total pain in the ass.

"So, would you like to hang out after school?" Carl asked Blake as they packed up for the day in front of their lockers. Blake stared at Carl for a second before locking his locker.

"How about you come over?" Blake asked as he hiked his bag on his shoulder. "It's been a while since you last made an appearance."

"Sure. Sounds good." Carl said before the two of them exited the building. "How are your parents doing recently?"

"Normal, for the most part. No verbal altercations as of yet... It's kind of a dull calmness in the house."

"From outside of the family, it normally seems calm... except for dinner." Carl recalled.

"Dinner is very unpredictable at best, anyhow." Blake said as he gave Carl an amused expression. "Maybe situations like to get out of hand whenever you are around just because, well, you are you."

"And that is supposed to mean what exactly?" Carl asked as he leaned against a lamp post in front of the school, Blake just grinned in response as the oh-so familiar limo pulled up in front of them.

"So, Father decided it would be a good idea to buy out a small yacht because, I quote 'Tis to replace the one we had lost due to my.. mishappenings..'."

"Isn't your family just now getting back on their feet financially?" Carl asked as the two of them played a video game in the treehouse.

"I questioned that." Blake said in a low tone. "But he insists that we are pretty close to where we left it before the whole situation started. I find it hard to believe."

"I don't blame ya.. Gotcha!" Carl said as he stealthily put a bullet in back of Blake's character's head, signifying the end of the game. Blake just shot Carl an unamused look before tossing the controller to the side. "I think you should talk to him about your concerns. You are old enough to understand and it seems he just wants to be back on your good side."

"My good side?" Blake asked. "He was never on my good side... I just merely respected him as I was told to."

"I think it might benefit you to have him as a friend-ish.. type thing." Carl said, Blake scoffed at the idea. "I'm serious, Blake! Think about after high school, when/if you decide to… tell all? It might soften the blow maybe just a little." Carl saw a pink hue develop on Blake's cheeks before he took a long sigh and rubbed his face in an apparent frustration.

"I never planned to tell anything of the sort." Blake muttered as he stared at the ground in front of him.

"Planned or not, It's going to eventually come out." Carl said.

"If I recall, I don't seem to remember you going all blabby with your folks. Am I correct?"

"Sure you are... but things like that isn't really an issue like it is for you." Carl said, obviously proving his point. It’s not like he has anything to talk to his parents about anyway.

"Touché..." Blake said in defeat. "Fine, I shall try… only because it seems SO important to you."

"I'll take it." Carl said with a smirk. "Another game?"

"Bring it on."

"Nice to see you again, Carl." Prescott greeted as the pair sat down at the dinner table.

"Same goes for you, sir... How goes the work?" Carl responded politely.

"Ah, very busy. Lots of branches to oversee, you know."

"I can imagine." Carl said with a kind smile. Prescott just nodded in acknowledgment. "With how tight resources are these days, I am sure it isn't easy staying on top of things."

"Very true, I assume you have been reading business magazines. Yes, I recall spotting an article about the recent plummet of important assets."

"Always have since I was ten. Keeping on top of news helps in the long run, I believe."

"I couldn't agree more." Prescott said as he thoughtfully sipped his drink which looked a lot like gin to Carl. He wondered how much he had in his system as of right now. As dinner progressed, Carl watched Prescott as he kept up a steady flow of alcohol. By the time desert came around, he had developed loose lips as he ranted about things going on and expressing his deepest concerns to Carl. He tried his best to go with the flow but the waters of this conversation were extremely choppy so he just merely agreed every time Prescott talked to him. Blake's mother was just in her own world throughout dinner and Courtney never made an appearance.

Blake offered to walk Carl home since Winston was already dismissed for the evening due to him not feeling well. The pair walked silently side by side as Carl pondered Prescott's behavior this evening. As though reading his mind, Blake suddenly broke the silence. "He's been a bit stressed out."

"I can imagine why." Carl said heavily as he recalled the conversation that went on throughout dinner and dessert. "But that is how business works. You win some, you lose some. He just doesn't seem use to the losing part."

"Mhmm.." Blake hummed quietly in agreement.

"You should talk to him." Carl said. Blake sighed in response. "You have a sharp mind, you could be of use if you try."

"I'll talk to him, do not fret… and maybe talk him into taking the yacht back. I am certain that it was an impulse buy."

"Good place to start." Carl said. "I never knew your father drinks."

"He doesn't... as I said, He has been stressed out lately and it's wracked his nerves a little. My mother is the one that normally drinks… as much as I don't want to say it, it is true."

"I see... Have you indulged lately?" Carl asked as he stopped at a corner about a block away from his house. Blake stopped and stared at him for a second or two.

"I might have." Blake muttered.

"So, yes?"

"... But not a whole lot. Just a couple." Blake said as he turned his gaze to a crack on the sidewalk. It was steadily getting dark as the seconds ticked by.

"Blake..." Carl started.

"I know."


"It is nothing to worry about, I assure you." Blake said as he looked up at Carl. Carl just sighed and pulled him into a tight hug.

"What do I have to do to get you to understand that I'm here for you?" Carl questioned softly as he nuzzled his cheek into Blake's hair. Blake said nothing but he wrapped his arms loosely around Carl's waist.

"...I promise, never again..." Blake said weakly. Carl took a calming breath before running his hand through Blake's soft locks. If this was all he could do right now then he would have to live with it but he was going to break this if it was the last thing he does.

"Honestly, Robert, How many times do I have to ask you – no – tell you to put your dirty socks in the laundry room, inside the hamper? NOT in front of the hamper or the washing machine, inside the hamper." Joanne lectured Hoodsey as she passed his room with a fist full of socks.

"I'm sorry, okay?" Hoodsey said, irritated. She has been on his case since he got home from school.

"No, it's not okay and mind that tone. I am your mother."

"I am aware." Hoodsey said with extreme indifference as he turned his attention to his school books. "I'm doing my homework!"

"Well, I'm sorry for the intrusion but why do you think you can take that tone with me, mister?" She asked in an angry huff. Hoodsey didn't answer, he just stared at her with a blank expression. "Uh-huh. Well, you are grounded for another week."

"ARE. YOU. SERIOUS?" Hoodsey yelled, he had just got through a week of his most recent punishment and now she adds a week to his suffering over an attitude. "That is not fair. INJUSTICE! INJUSTICE, I TELL YOU!"

"Calm the dramatics, Robert Joseph. It's unfitting for a young man." Joanne said as she put her empty hand on her hip. "Another week, you hear? No ands, ifs, or buts about it." With that she closed his bedroom door and left him alone to seep in his anger. His mom was being so unreasonable and annoying to boot. How was he supposed to keep Macie if he was stuck in his room for a month straight? Doesn't she realize that he has a LIFE? This type of stuff has been constant between the two of them since the earring, it's like she is trying to bully him into taking it out. Gone away are the simple conversations, in come the fights and the inability to stand in the same room. He now understood why Dodie has an attitude every now and then with their mother.

After Hoodsey had another quiet dinner with his family, he was sent to bed like usual but never complied. He waited for everyone to be asleep before he snuck out of the house through his bedroom window. The walk was very long considering her house was in the outskirts of town but when he got there, he located her bedroom window very easily and began to toss tiny bits of gravel at it. The light inside grew bright and Macie popped her head out of the wide window, looking down at him in slight confusion.

"Well, this is very romantic." Macie said with a small giggle.

"I had to see you." He said bashfully. "Mind if I come in?"

"Sure. How could I turn you down after you came all this way?" She said and she watched him climb the small ivy fence right below her bedroom window. He crawled inside her room as quietly as he could. "What brings you here so late tonight?"

"No reason other than wanting to see my girlfriend without restrictions." Hoodsey said with a smile but the last part of that sentence sounded slightly bitter, Macie gave him a slight smile before walking towards her desk where she had books sprawled out. He glanced at the wall clock across the room, it was ten minutes until midnight.

"Things haven't gotten any better at home, huh?" she asked after a while.

He shoved his hands in his hoodie pocket and frowned a bit, "No. I am actually grounded for another week."

"Really?" She asked in slight amazement. "Did something happen?"

"Just my mom being overly sensitive again." Hoodsey said as he leaned against the wall where he was standing.

"She does have a habit of doing that." Macie laughed as she opened and retrieved something from her mini fridge. "Don't you think it's a bad idea to be here then?"

"Everyone is asleep." He reassured as Macie handed him a full bottle of water accompanied with a sweet kiss on the cheek.

"I do hope you get away with this… But don't do it again until you’re done fighting with your mother." Macie said quietly before planting a much needed kiss on his lips. Hoodsey grinned into the kiss, how could he fight her on that? She was the most reasonable out of the two of them.

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