XVIII. Make Me Forget
My heart was beating out of my chest as I held the phone impossibly closer to my ear as I frantically looked for my car keys, but it was as if they’d grown legs and run away. “It’s okay, Mads. I’ll be there soon. I love you so much,” I softly comforted through the phone, my heart rapidly beating in my chest. He responded with sobs and broken “I love you too”s. Where were they? I was running out of time.
“Noah, dear, where are you going?” My Nona asked as I passed the living room where she was settled with her knitting needles.
“Somewhere important,” I rushed out, desperately looking around the living room. Come on.
“Noah, where are you going?” She asked more firmly.
“I just said that I need to go somewhere important,” I snapped, annoyance sleeping into my words. “You don’t need to know exactly where I’m going all the time, Nona. Can’t I have a bit of privacy, please?”
“Noah Giovanni Bruno, you will not speak to me like that,” she snapped, her voice raising. “What’s your problem? I don’t know what’s gotten into lately, but you need to knock it off. Sneaking around, being secretive, lying about where you are. I know some of these things come with growing up, but you’re pushing your boundaries and it stops now. Now, tell me where you’re going this instant, giovanotto (young man) and lose your attitude or there will be consequences, understood?”
I found myself scoffing as anger boiled with my chest. “You know what? The problem is that my boyfriend is in trouble and I need to get to him now.” As those words slid past my lips, the horror of the realization of what I’d just said dawned on me, but at the same time I felt an unmatched relief wash over me as the weight of this secret lifted off my chest. And though it wasn’t the ideal circumstances, I was out. Freed. But the joy didn’t last long once I saw my Nona’s shocked expression, a look that resembled disdain filling her eyes as she opened her mouth to chastise me. The anger quickly came back. “Before you say it, this isn’t a phase or a cry for attention. I love him. I love him more than I’ve loved anyone in my life and I know you and the church think I’m an abomination that should be damned to hell as if who I like dictates my relationship with God, trust me I know, so there’s no need to waste your breath.”
By the end, I was taking heavy breaths and my body was slightly shaking as my Nona pressed her lips together in a thin line before finally saying, “Noah...” but she didn’t say anything else.
I looked her in the eyes, my heart slightly sinking due to the answer I knew I was going to receive, but I was hoping, praying that I was wrong. “Nona, can you honestly look me in the eyes and tell me you love me the same even though I’m gay?” She opens her mouth to respond, but quickly closes it and looked down. Tears formed in my eyes but I quickly blinked them away. I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of seeing me cry. “That’s what I thought,” I spat, but my voice betrayed me by slightly cracking at the end before I stormed toward the door, thankful to find my keys in the key bowl so I could go straight to Madison without spending any extra time in this toxic house.
I hurriedly climbed into my car and jammed the key in the ignition before I put my phone on speaker before I began pulling out of my driveway. “Madison, babe you still there?” I gently asked.
“Yeah,” his weak voice softly said. “And I heard everything.”
I swallowed as I quickly drove down the street. “It’s okay, Mads. I’ll be there soon. Just stay on the phone with me. You don’t have to say anything, I just want to make sure you’re safe, okay?”
“O-Okay,” he made out before an unsettling silence filled my car. That only made me drive faster and within no time I was frantically knocking on Madison’s door. Through the phone, I heard Madison gasp and whimper. “Noah, please hurry. H-He’s back and I don’t think I can-” His fearful words caused me to instantly stop, concern bubbling through me.
“It’s okay, Madison. It’s just me,” I comforted. “I’m just really worried about you.”
It was silent on his end and worst case scenarios started running through my head. I was about to call out his name when I saw the damage that had been done to his doorframe. My eyebrows knitted together as I gripped the broken door handle and turned it, causing the door to instantly swing open. I still hadn’t heard anything from Madison’s side of the line. “Madison? Babe, it’s me,” I gently called out as I closed the door, making sure to lock the top lock since it seemed to be intact.
“In here,” Madison’s tired voice came from what sounded like the bathroom. I wasted no time running to him, but when I saw his face I couldn’t help the gasp that escaped my lips. His nose was a bloodied mess, a black eye was quickly forming around his right eye, his lip was covered in blood, and there were several gashes across his face, all slowly leaking out blood. He was sitting in an empty bathtub wearing nothing but my pajama pants I’d given him, his phone dangerously balanced on the ledge as he loosely held a bottle of beer between his fingers. He looked tired in more ways than one. And it killed me.
“Oh my gosh, Mads...” I trailed as I quickly approached him. I could see the dried tear stains on his cheeks and the bruises that decorated his chest as he numbly stared at the faucet. Anger surged through me as I took his hand. “Tell me who did this to you and I swear I’ll end them.”
Madison’s grip on my hand slightly tightened as he softly chuckled and looked at me, tears welling up in his eyes. “I know you will.” Even battered with tears running down his cheeks, he still looked like an angel. I one swift movement, I used my free hand to take the bottle from Madison’s hands and put it down before I gently kissed him. He tasted like whiskey. He instantly responded, though slow and tender. I used my free hand and used my fingers to gently grip his chin. My heart dropped as the salt of his tears made their way onto my tongue.
“I’m so sorry, baby,” I whispered into his lips as I tried to pull away, but he pulled me back in.
“Please don’t stop kissing me, Noah,” he pleaded into my lips. “I need you to make me forget.”
I merely complied and continued showing my love for him through the kiss, though ever movement of our lips made my heart break a bit more. He ran his fingers through my hair and held me close before he rested his forehead on mine. “Noah...I-I don’t know what to do.” The sheer brokenness in his voice made me break as well.
“Shh, baby. It’s okay. I’m here.” I wrapped my arms around him and let him cry into my chest.
“Please don’t leave,” he sobbed, causing me to hold him tighter and kiss the crown of his head.
“I never will, I promise,” I said, holding him impossibly closer while being cautions of his wounds. It killed me to see my boyfriend, my rock for everything I’ve been through during the short time we’ve been together be so completely and utterly broken. I wanted to cry for him, but I blinked back the tears.
I held him and let him cry until there was nothing left but uneven breaths. After a few seconds I gently said, “Come on. Let’s get you washed up.”
“Noah, you don’t have to-” he started but I cut him off by turning the faucet, causing the water to quickly come out.
“It wasn’t an offer, Madison. Come on,” I said extending my hand for him to grab, which he did. I offered him a small smile before he turned so his back was facing me and stripped, revealing some of the bruises of his legs that were covered by my pajama pants. “Oh baby,” I whispered as I looked him over, my heart breaking more and more as a new bruise came to my attention. Madison’s response was a woeful smile.
“It doesn’t hurt as bad as it looks,” he softly said as I turned off the water, but his statement was instantly proven false when I led him back into the bath and winces escaped his lips as he crouched back into the bath.
“There, there, il mio amore (my love), I’m going to make you better,” I cooed as I helped him fully sit in the tub. “I promise.”
“I love you, Noah,” he whispered. “I love you so much it hurts.”
I smiled as he leaned his head back so I could kiss him. Our lips met quietly and tenderly. “I love you too.” He relaxed as I grabbed a towel and gently began washing his battered face. Luckily all the bleeding had stopped, but it didn’t make sewing him like this any easier. “You’re so strong, Madison,” I whispered as I moved so that I was cleaning his bare chest. “I hope you know that.”
“I wish my father felt the same way,” he sighed, closing his eyes and letting his head hang low. “He did this to me.” Even though a part of me knew that his father had been behind all of this, I hadn’t wanted to believe that someone who claimed to love his son so much would be so cruel. My jaw clenched as I gripped the towel harder. “He said that being a fag makes me weak.”
“Give me his location,” I seethed. “Then he’ll see just how weak us fags really are.”
“No, Noah...I don’t want to hurt him,” he said barely above a whisper before he scoffed and shook his head. “How pathetic am I? I mean, I call my dad and tell him I’m gay, he comes over and beats the hell out of me and I can’t even bring myself to really swing back.” He placed his head in his hands. “Even when I was on the floor getting my ribs kicked in begging for him to stop, I couldn’t muster more than a sloppy punch. And now that an opportunity presents itself to make him pay for what he’s done...just knowing that he’s my father stops me. Holding on to the hope that just maybe he’ll come around or he’ll open up his mind a bit...”
“Madison, babes, this-” I said motioning to his body, “-can’t be saved. If he can call himself your dad while doing this to you...” I couldn’t even finish my sentence I was so pissed off. I abruptly stood up and angrily ran my fingers through my hair as I started doing the breathing exercises I usually did when I got upset, but it wasn’t working. All I wanted to do was feel the bastard’s face against my knuckles. His throat between my hands. His ribs against my soccer cleats. I wanted him to feel every ounce of pain he’d caused Madison then increase it ten-food. I wanted him to- My vengeful thoughts were cut off by Madison’s wet, familiar arms wrapping themselves around me.
“Calm down, Noah,” he softly said. “Just breath. I’m sorry, I know we have to do something about this, it’s just...I’m still in shock and confused and horrified and-”
“You don’t need to apologize for you feelings or confusion,” I softly said as I cupped his cheeks. “We’ll figure this out together okay?” He nodded before I placed a kiss on his forehead. He was so beautiful, even naked and covered in water and bruises, he was still as breathtaking as the night we’d first met. And I loved him. “Let’s get you some clothes and put some medicine on those wounds, ’kay?”
He nodded once more as I took his hand and led him out of his bathroom and back into his bedroom where I grabbed the first pair of briefs from his dresser. “You know, Noah, you have a surprising amount of control for having seeing me naked for the first time,” he half-heartedly joked. I smiled. Even in the worst of times, Mads still made room for a joke or two.
“Oh trust me, if we were under different circumstances this would be a completely different story, trust me.” Madison smiled and rolled his eyes. There. That smile belonged on his face instead of tears and bruises. “Now, sit down and relax while I go find your medicine and bandages. Nurse Noah is coming for a visit.”
“It’s in the cabinet furthest to the right in the kitchen,” Madison called as I exited his bedroom. I wasted no time going to my directed destination and found what I needed no problem.
After a little while, Madison was all bandaged up with the proper creams going to the proper cuts and bruises as well as a pain killer or two taking up work in his system. “Is that better?” I softly asked as I looked him over once more and he nodded.
“Thank you, Noah.”
“It was no problem at all,” I genuinely said as I sat next to him on the bed.
“I’m not just talking about today,” Madison pushed as he settled himself onto my lap so that he was straddling me, then rested his non-bruised cheek on my shoulder. “I mean thank you for everything since the night we met. You’re the most amazing person I’ve ever met and...I just wanted you to know how much I love and appreciate you.”
I smiled as I traced my fingers up and down his bare spine. “I love and appreciate you too, Madison.”
I felt him relax deeper into me. It felt good that I could be there for him the way he’d been there for me countless times before. “I’m sorry about your Nona,” he whispered after a few moments, so low I could barely hear him.
I didn’t want to think about her now or I just might break down and that’s the last thing either one of us needed. I needed to stay strong for him. “Classic Madison, always worried about others even when his world is falling apart,” I whispered with a slight chuckle, shaking my head as I swept his hair from his forehead before I kissed his forehead.
“I guess it’s my flaw,” he said, as he straightened up so we were eye to eye once more. I noticed how red his eyes were.
“No it’s not. I love that about you.” I cupped his cheeks and gently stroked them with my thumbs. “You don’t need to worry about Nona. She’s not worth it and she’s definitely not a top priority right now. If she doesn’t accept our love then that’s on her. You’re the only person I care about, Madison, okay? And we will find a way to make your father pay for what he’s done to us. To you.” Madison mutely nodded before he gently kissed my palm.
“Thank you,” he whispered before he wrapped his arms around me then buried his head in my neck.
And I held him there, gently rocking him as his silent tears slid down my neck.