Empty swimming pools [BxB]

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Gods & Monsters

He lies halfway on top of him. His eyes were already closed, but William knows he isn’t sleeping, so he reaches for his t-shirt and cleans the cum of his chest and belly the best he can and throws the t-shirt on the floor. William strokes his hand down Lennon’s back as he has his cheek on his chest. Silence hangs between them for a long moment.

- I was seventeen almost eighteen when she died. - Lennon says resignedly after too many moments of tension. - Maggie. I tried to save her. I used to model, and did other stuff to earn money to pay for her medical bills. But I failed. She died and then I just became ... this.

- You did other stuff? Like what? Stealing?

- No. - he sighs heavily against his skin.

- You can tell me. Whatever it is, Len. I’m not leaving.

- I used to...

A man who writes wonderful, inspiring lyrics that people around the world end up tattooing on themselves or use as wedding vows is struggling to find words now. - I had to start modelling really young. It was hard but I needed the money and a lot of it and there was no other way.

- Oh... But what about your parents? Did you care for your sister by yourself?

- My parents... My dad died in a car accident when I was six. I don’t remember him much, only that he loved music. He was a pianist, keyboard player, whatever he could get his hands on. He played the weddings with a local band, and parties and stuff. That wasn’t paying much then he became a lorry driver. He taught me how to play the piano. And then he died. My mum was depressed after that, barely ever smiled anymore. We lived in a poor neighbourhood but we always had enough. We were happy I guess, I mean Maggie and I, we were just kids so we didn’t understand loss like that, like my mum did. Anyway she was drinking more often than not. And then when I was twelve we found out that my sister had cancer. It was an early stage and we were hopeful but that broke my mum even more. I tried to stay brave and strong for her, I even got a job, but it wasn’t enough, all the money, all the savings went to my sister’s medication. My mum soon remarried. He was a drunk. A loser. - unconsciously William tightens his grip on him, this story can’t be easy to tell and it seems as Lennon rarely tells it, if ever.

- Mum didn’t love him, I know she didn’t but I think she thought he had some money and it would help with Maggie. It didn’t. He was drinking and she was drinking, and then she started taking drugs - it was awful to see her like that. She used to be so beautiful and then she became a ghost. So I tried to avoid all of that, I didn’t care about the school much either. But I went to school and I still worked, and stayed away from home. I just didn’t want to see my mum like that and I hated my stepdad. He was barely home anyway. And then after a couple of years of that misery, I remember it was my fourteenth birthday and my mum forgot about it. I went to school that day upset because of that. That same day my art teacher asked me to come to his studio after the class, if I would like some extra credit because my grades are shit and he basically wants to help. And like I said, I didn’t really care about the school at this point, I kind of realised I would get a random job in the neighbourhood, in the airport or construction or something just to survive and that would be my life. I had dreams, I loved playing the piano and my music teacher always complimented my voice and musicality, and the only subject I truly enjoyed in school was English because reading and writing essays came so easy for me, but never did I even think any of these dreams could come true, living in a place like that. So I wanted to say no to my teacher, but he seemed really nice and worried about me and I rarely had anyone worry about me then. My family especially. So I went to this studio in Shoreditch and... He said he wants me to take my clothes off and pose for him. - William tenses at this but Lennon’s voice is still the same, cold and even.

- He said a lot of kids do this for him for extra credit. And I said no and left. He didn’t give up. He kept asking me in school, even when I didn’t attend his class he would find me in a corridor. He seemed so genuinely concerned still, I found that pretty fucking creepy; the taking my clothes off part and him stalking me basically. So one day he said he will pay me money for it, that he knows my sister is sick, that it will be a job, he said that was an actual, real job. I knew he was a known artist in the city, kids talked about it at school, they called him the professor because he used to lecture in universities too, so I said yes. Maggie was in and out of the hospital but just then the cancer came back. So I desperately needed the money. I went a few times, took my clothes off, he was painting me, he took some photos with his digital camera as well. And gave me money after every time. Also I got the best mark in my art class. He was nice to me during those times, he seemed worried about me, about the situation at home, he said that I can always talk to him about it. He talked about art with so much passion, how he loved the bone structure of my face or some bullshit like that, and that I’m an inspiration for him. I didn’t see it as him being attracted to me. I knew I was gay then, or bi, I didn’t really pay attention to labels or anything like that really. I realised that I’m attracted to boys when I used to skate with my mates and we would take our t-shirts off in summertime, and I would pay attention to them much more than I should. - he smiles a bit, his fingers roaming around William’s chest absently.

- I wasn’t hiding it but I also wasn’t perusing it, like, I wasn’t having sex. With spending my time with Maggie at hospital and my part-time job, school, and after class activities with professor, the only thing I did, rarely, was hang out with the mates from my neighbourhood, smoking weed and skating. I made out with a few people on these occasions, girls and boys, but we were still just kids I guess, I wasn’t interested in that. But him, I never saw him like that, he was older, in his forties or maybe even fifties. So one day, I was posing, naked as usual and he approached me and asked if he could touch me. Down there. - Lennon swallows and closes his eyes.

- I was a bit scared and confused so I said no. I was actually getting used to our arrangement and I began to trust him. He acted professional and it all looked like a job. But then when I said no, he threatened me, said he had my naked pictures and can show them to everyone at school, and what hit me the most was when he said he’ll stop paying for my sister’s meds. So I stayed - he touched me, and I got hard, and hated that I got hard, hated myself. I thought he actually wanted to help me but turned out he was a perv, he started telling me then how beautiful I am, how he fell in love with me, that I shouldn’t resist it, that he will take care of me. I was crying, crying because my body betrayed me.

- Oh God, Lennon. - William whispers. His heart cracks right down the middle, tears fill his eyes.

- Anyway I went home crying and I told my mum. And for the first time I thought I had my mum back - she said she will go to school and report him and she hugged me. She went to school the next day, but then when she came back she said she had a conversation with the professor and that everything is fixed, that he actually wants to give me a modelling job, a well paid one and he already booked me in an agency. I didn’t want to go, obviously, wanting to have nothing with him, plus I didn’t want to be a model. We fought but she said we needed the money, and the worst part was I knew we did. So she took me to a photo shooting, it was a popular modelling agency, the professor had friends in high circles and knew the owner and they gave me jobs right away. I was young but with parent’s consent I could work even as a minor, also they were looking for that type of look in fashion and I got some well paid jobs, nothing major but it got me into that lifestyle. In those years I stopped going to school. I met Nate and Liam in one of the parties. I used to go out to clubs - it was easy to get in even not being of age because if you’re a part of a well known group of young models everything was allowed to you. When I say everything I mean the drugs were always on the table, didn’t even have to pay for it. So I started using coke heavily, just couldn’t imagine living that life sober. I used to visit my sister in the hospital, she was getting worse and worse but I gave all my money for her to get the best care. I slept at Liam’s place often, or random people’s places, I had lots of friends, well party-friends, none of them were my real friends except for Liam and Nate, which I will realize much later. I slept at professor’s studio too sometimes, he continued to paint me. I just went, I didn’t stop going there even though I guess I could, I had money then, I could have ran away from the city or the country even, but somehow I knew all that money I earned was because of the job he got me. He could have easily made me jobless as well. And I wouldn’t leave my sister. So he painted me, took photos of me. He would touch me, kiss me, blow me, make me come. I was pretty numb, just let it happen. - Lennon pauses and shudders.

- He didn’t make me do anything to him, he would only jerk off and then come all over my naked body, still I let it all happen. He threatened me as well, said he would publish photos of me and videos of me and ruin my modelling job if I say something to the police, or anyone. And I couldn’t lose that job because of the money. He... he fucked me for the first time after three years after our relationship started. - William is crying, he just realizes now, his tears getting lost somewhere in Lennon’s hair.

- It happened one day when he called me to come over, and I was so high then, I just went there and let it happen. I barely remember it. He said he loved me and that I’m his muse. - William tenses when he hears the word muse but doesn’t comment.

- He said that I’m so beautiful that all doors will be open for me one day, that he’s going to make sure that everyone sees my beautiful face. After a few months, my sister died. I was there in the hospital with her and my mum wasn’t there. I hated her so much and barely ever seen her at that point, just avoided her. So I was so angry at her and everything she allowed to happen to me that I went to the house and just started shouting at her and telling her how awful of a mother she was to us, my stepdad was there and he beat the shit out of me, I didn’t care, I hated myself and pretty much wanted him to punch me in the face because I couldn’t stand it. I hated my face, hated that it attracted him. I just took some of the stuff that I still had there, left and never came back again. I went to the professor’s studio after. Went there, took my clothes off and just told him to fuck me. He did. Then I told him it was the last time and that I’m never coming back. He obviously laughed at me, said I can’t leave and threatened me, but I just said my sister died and there’s nothing he could do to keep me anymore. So I left. I stayed at Liam’s, stopped modelling. Started playing music with Nate because he was in a bend then. It saved me. - William pulls Lennon into him more, nuzzling his shoulder, exhaling hard. He swallows thickly. He doesn’t want Lennon to hear the pain in his voice, even though he was sure he left his tears on his skin. He wasn’t expecting this. Nothing like this. How is it possible that he lost so much, so horribly and only because he was trying to be a good human being, trying to care and be kind. It sends a shiver of terror through him. So William pulls away just enough to sit up against the headboard and pushes Lennon gently to sit on top of him. His dark eyes are bloodshot but flat, and his mouth was a thin hard line. He is still gorgeous, even rumpled and open with pain. William brushes his fingers over his forehead then down his perfect nose.

- Thank you. - he says solemnly. Lennon tenses.

- For what?

- For telling me. - Lennon’s expression softens a little. His eyes then widen in surprise when he sees William’s tears, he raises a hand to his face and brushes a thumb over his cheek. - You were crying? Don’t... - William looks away.

- Sorry. It was just... you...

- It’s sad. I know. - he keeps stroking his cheek, mesmerised. The morning sun turns his eyes turquoise. - I didn’t think you’d cry.

The emotions boiling in his chest threaten to make him start crying again. He is flushed with regret, anger, pain - and the knowledge that none of it mattered, nothing he feels can change what happened to Lennon.

- Thank you for trusting me with your story.

- Nobody knows.

William smooths a hand over his ribs, just idly touching skin to soothe him.

- And the nightmares?

- Sometimes I have them, but before I used to just go out and get high. Coke helps. Alcohol. Lots of alcohol. But since I’ve been sober for a couple of weeks now, they are more constant.

- Do you... do you feel like you need drugs? Are you struggling?

- No. - he says immediately. - Not anymore. Sometimes I think how easier it would be if I could just get high, I don’t think it will ever go away. But I don’t think I want it anymore, before it was an escape from reality, escape from my fucked up memories, now... since you’re here, since I have you right here, like this... and it’s so real and so... I don’t want to escape, don’t want my mind blurred. - he cards his fingers hard through William’s hair, and the contact draws them closer. He just wants him to be okay, to not hurt anymore.

- Yes. You have me. Right here.

- This is the part where you run for your life.

- No, it’s not.

- But I fucked him for money. You understood that part? I literally sold my body. - suddenly he’s tense again, like he can push William into hating him over this. - You don’t have a problem with that? That I’m a whore?!

- No. - William says immediately. - You’re not a whore. He was an abuser. A pedofile. You were just an innocent boy trying to take care of his sister - you said it yourself. You’re a fucking good person, Lennon. I wish I were half as brave as you. So brave, and strong and kind...

- I’m not strong. Look at me...

- I am looking. I see you. And you’re everything I want. - so he kisses him like he wants to breathe that fact into him. And he pulls him in and leans back until he is bearing all of Lennon’s weight, all this heavy sadness. There’s warm skin, there’s birdsong somewhere behind the window, there’s morning sunlight streaming into the room and there’s love.

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