Free Me

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Understanding

“You must be Joshua! Come in, please, you must be tired after your bike ride,” I’m greeted by wide eyes and a huge smile pulling me into the apartment.

I don’t know how to react, so I just smile and stare. Her brown hair falls a little bit above her shoulders and her amber eyes shine like honey, they’re just like Zayne’s.

She lowers her voice a bit, “Zayne’s in his room, thank you for taking him to the nurse’s office. I didn’t see him this morning, I had no idea he had a fever. He came home and wouldn’t stop talking about you, he was so excited to spend last night with you and he wanted to text you as soon as he got home.”

I smile as her positive energy infects me. I see a door open behind her, Zayne comes out in a huge grey Neon Trees t-shirt and brick red sweat pants. His eyes seem heavy as he drags himself out the door and rubs his eyes.

“Mom please don’t scare him away, it’s not often people want to be around me and it’s even more rare I meet someone who understands,” his voice is rough and raspy.

Honestly, it’s hot. I’m so in over my head.

He smiles at me, his eyes still hanging low, “Hey,” he mutters as he leans back on his door frame, “Want to come sit down?”

I look at his mom, wanting to make sure she’s ok with me in his room. She gives me a small nod and nudges me over in his direction. Returning her smile I walk in Zayne’s direction.

“You should relax dude,” he pokes me lightly in the shoulder, “My mom won’t bite. Maybe talk you to death.”

He rolls his eyes as he drags his feet walking back to his bed. His room is pretty big, bigger than I expected. His bed is a mess of bunched up sheets and blankets in the far corner of his room. His nightstand has a lamp, alarm clock, a box of tissues, his phone, and a couple random books. Across from the foot of his bed is a dresser with a TV, cable box, and Xbox on it. I look next to me at the desk by the door, the computer looks perfect and well kept but the rest of the desk is covered in pencils, pens, and paper with all types of things scribbled on them.

He sits on his bed and stretches his arms above his head.

“Were you sleeping? I didn’t want to wake you up when you should rest.”

He shakes his head and pats his bed, “I kept waking up anyway. It’s hard to get comfortable when one second I want all the blankets and the next I want none of them.”

I nod as I look at his tangled cement grey blankets. He looks really sweaty still, it doesn’t look like anything has changed.

Slowly lowering onto the bed next to him, I pull out the cookies I brought and his eyes light up!

“No way! You weren’t joking?” He snags the bag from my hands and starts laughing. His laughs quickly turn to a coughing fit, making it hard for him to catch his breath.

“Are you alright?” I ask as he lays back on his mountain of pillows.

He shoves a cookie in is mouth and nods, “My mom thinks I have a cold, with my luck everyone at school will think I killed myself or dropped out.”

I look down at his blankets, I know he’s right. If he’s gone for more than three days rumors will start to spread and make things worse.

“You know I’ll defend you to any bullshit, I did it today and no one batted an eye, but at least someone can defend you.”

“Do that too much and you’ll get figured out faster than you ever thought possible,” he takes another cookie and sighs, “Ok yeah your mom rocks at baking. I could die happy right now.”

I shrug, “What are friends for? I can bring you more tomorrow.”

He smiles with crumbs all over his lips, “You could just give me the recipe. If you become my cookie dealer you might as well move in.”

I hear a door open at the other end of the apartment and see a big man with broad shoulders and black hair step into the living room. He looks at me on his sons bed and clenches his jaw, assuming he’s Zayne’s dad I stand up and take a step back out of respect. Nothing in his demeanor changes as Mrs. Daveen steps up to distract him.

Zayne appears in front of me, closing the door and ending my stare down with his dad, “Ignore him, he does that even if it’s just me in here.”

“You two really have issues don’t you?” I watch him slump into his desk chair and start spinning.

“He says he’s fine with it but I think you can see why I don’t really believe it, the three of us haven’t spent more than five hours in the same room together in maybe eight months.”

I think that’s why I haven’t told my dad, I’m afraid of losing him. Seeing how Zayne’s dad’s behavior is effecting him is hard to watch, let alone experience.

He bites his cheek and crosses his arms. I watch him start bouncing his leg, causing the fabric of his sweats to look like it’s vibrating. He still has the cookies I brought, but now he can’t even seem to look at them.

The door slowly opens as Mrs. Daveen comes in, “How are you two doing?” she looks at her son, “Your dad went to go meet his friends, probably will be back late. Are you sure you don’t want dinner, you won’t get better if you don’t eat.”

“I’m fine mom, thanks,” his head stays down.

Her face is soft and lips turned down, she looks worn down. It must be hard to be the mediator, trying to stay true to her son and her husband when they can never see eye to eye. She puts on the face they need to get through the day.

His mom leaves and he puts his head in his hands, “I’m sorry, you shouldn’t have to see all this. It doesn’t help that I’m sick and I just to yell at everyone.”

“If you want to yell I’ll listen, I understand how it feels wanting to just get it all out,” I sit down on his bed and we just stare at each other.

“I just want to feel normal as me. My dad doesn’t talk to me, my mom puts on a face, kids I once called friends spend all day calling me names and telling me to kill myself. I just want it to all stop,” He gets up and sits next to me, “The only thing in months that has felt normal is talking to you. You get it, no one else has ever understood before and I just... I don’t really know how I feel about it.”

My brain shuts off for a minute. I want him to understand how I feel, how much I want to be here for him. I don’t want him to feel alone.

I reach over, putting my hand on his cheek, and lean into him. The second my lips touch his the energy changes between us. His body stiffens in surprise but he quickly relaxes and embraces my advance.

His lips are so much softer than I thought.

He presses his mouth harder to mine, the split lip scraping against mine. He scoots closer and puts his hand on my knee, my heart starts racing faster and faster. I take a chance and run my hand up from his cheek and into his hair, it’s so soft and smooth I feel like I’m touching a pink, silky cloud.

“Zayne!” We hear his mom from outside the door and jump apart, “Do you and Josh want some lemonade?”

He squeezes his eyes shut, “No mom! We’re good!”

I start to chuckle. He presses his lips into a thin line as he fights a laugh too, he leans over and presses his forehead to mine.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper, “I should have said something before I just...”

He presses his lips against mine for a minute before pulling away with the biggest grin, “If we had all night I would ask you to do it again.”

I take his hand in mine, it feels right. I look over at his desk by the door, worried his mom will come in and yell at us, when I see a small case next to his chair.

“What’s that?” I get up and walk over to it, picking it up I think it looks a little like a small guitar case, just curvier.

“It’s a violin,” he stands up and shoves his hands into his sweats pockets.

“Do you play?”

“Since I was ten,” He looks embarrassed, pulling his arms closer into him and kicking a bundle of blankets at his feet.

“Could you play something for me?”

He looks caught of guard, based on where he put the case I’m guessing his choice of instrument doesn’t always sit well with people, “Maybe another time. I hate to say it but you should probably go before my mom starts thinking you’re moving in.”

I hesitate and gently put the case back, “You’re probably right, if my mom finds me gone she’ll flip.”

I reach for the door and he quickly pulls me back into another quick kiss.

“Call me later?”

I nod with a goofy grin before stepping back and walking out the door. His mom is standing at the kitchen counter as I walk out.

“Leaving so soon? I could drive you home if you’d like dear,” she wipes her hands on her jeans as she rounds the corner of the counter.

“It’s ok Mrs. Daveen, I have my bike, it’ll take me at most twenty minutes.”

She nods as she comes in to give me a hug, she squeezes me and gently speaks into my ear, “Thank you for everything. He needs someone, someone who can be there in ways we can’t,” she pulls back, finally smiling a real smile, “I think you’ll be good for him.”

I return her smile, saying goodnight and heading out the door. As I mount my bike, I look and see Mr. Daveen sitting in an old station wagon in the parking lot. He sits there scribbling something on a note pad.

I watch for a couple minutes trying to figure out what could be so important that he needs to hide in his car and lie about where he is. I wonder if he just wants to avoid Zayne, knowing another guy is in the house with him.

My phone buzzes.

Thank you for tonight... For all of it <3

I quickly respond.

I wish it didn’t have to end. Feel better soon, I want to see you. Get some rest :)

I give one more glance to Mr. Daveen’s car before I start peddling home.

I stop at a crosswalk and text Arriana to open her window so I can get in and tell her everything. I can see my street getting closer and his house getting farther away. I want him closer to me, I want him better so I can see him at school everyday. I want him.

He wants me.

I quietly put my bike back and sneak to Arriana’s window where she sits waiting. The questions start flying the second she opens the window.

“Can I at least get inside, I don’t think you want me to freeze to death in the middle of my story.”

“Then hurry up! I’m dying here, it’s after eleven and I’ve been waiting forever to know what happened. Did he like the cookies?”

“Yes, it really seemed to help.”

She pulls me inside and I flop on her fluffy white and rose bed. Her room is so much cleaner and organized than mine, I should probably clean up. I probably won’t

After telling Arriana everything she starts gushing about how happy she is for us and how messed up everything is for people like us. I escape her grasp with the excuse of being tired.

“I’ll bet you are,” she winks before giving me a hug and sending me to bed.

I plug in my phone and read one last text from Zayne before shutting everything off.

Goodnight.... Boyfriend.

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