Speak & Listen

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SUMMER

SUMMER

I had woken up on a particular Saturday. It was finally summer, the exact following week after the burial. It was still morning, Benjamin had slept over but unlike Gabriel, he stayed over for the night. I looked at him in his sleep and a smile built itself across my face, a smile of admiration for both his presence and beauty. Benjamin was implausibly beautiful in his sleep, even much prettier when awake.

It was his first sleep over and unlike Gabriel, we didn’t have sex. However, we did cuddle in the dark, and I have to say, it felt different.

Flashback:

A got a knock from the door. It was just yesterday night, mom had tried typing a message that she wasn’t going to be back anytime soon and sent me money to maintain electricity and every other monthly expense. I wasn’t bothered anymore. That woman was beyond broken. But so are we all. That doesn’t give us motive to disappear from our parents.

Benjamin, who I was certain was the person knocking on the door, had come from Garden Heights and had planned to spend the entire weekend with me. In my pyjamas, I dragged my feet to the door and opened.

“Hey...” He whispered as he kissed my cheek.

“Hey.” I smiled. I got out of the way and he entered.

He looked around. “I don’t think I’ve ever been inside your house before.”

I shook my head. “No. You haven’t.”

“It’s much prettier than I had imagined.”

I squinted. Yeah, whatever that meant. “Why, thank you. Do you want anything to drink, eat?”

“If you didn’t cook, I guess we could just order.”

“Good idea. I have wine in the fridge.” I looked at him for consent.

“Wine is perfect.” He sat on the kitchen counter, making himself comfortable as I took out the wine. “I’ll call the pizza guy.”

I nodded. I rushed to the restroom. Suddenly I began being insecure about my breath. I quickly brushed my teeth, rinsing and brushing again. I even went as far as washing my face. When I had finally managed to calm down, I looked at the mirror in front of me and froze for a mild second.

It was always that nowadays. Every time I’d look at a mirror, any mirror, I’d sink into this trance where my thoughts are unleashed and would eventually resort to me scratching again, so I looked away and instead, I dried my face.

I went out of the bathroom as if I was running away from a blood-sucking demon. The terror written on my face was probably noticeable. I descended downstairs in a panic, although I thought I was hiding it. “Hey. Where have you been?” He asked.

“Has it been that long?” My eyes widened.

“It’s been twenty minutes, even the pizza guy delivered. Babe, are you sure you’re okay?” Benjamin got off the counter and walked towards me.

“What? Yes...I mean no.” I fidgeted. I had agreed to a no-more-secrets rule with him, which has been going on well for the past week. “I’m just nervous because it’s our first sleep-over together. And as much as you probably think I’m the romantic-movie-on-the-couch type of guy...I’m not. In fact, I hate movies.” I admitted honestly.

He laughed as a sigh left his mouth. “Dude, I just didn’t know how to tell you. God! I could do with just music, or late-night cruise and smoke weed.”

Although we did not have sex, however, we did smoke weed that night. Like Mia, I dragged him to the backyard. He sat up as I rested horizontally with my head on his thighs. We lit the first blunt. “Do you at least love the stars?” Benjamin said as he blew off the smoke.

“No.” I laughed. “However, I like the darkness behind and around them.”

“What do you love about the darkness?”

“How it’s the fazing absence of light. I guess I enjoy melancholy more than any temperament.”

“Temperament? Like moods?”

“Yeah. I don’t see myself being the star, but I’m always the darkness that surrounds and dims the light.”

“That must be cool. If you can dim light, that makes you some god of pessimism.” He laughed.

“We’re all gods of something, babe.” I caressed his face with my fingertips as I blew out smoke.

“What does that mean? ‘We’re all gods’? Or you’re just playing creepy again?” He smirked.

“Daniel taught me that we are all gods. Everything is the manifestation of our intelligence. The divine architecture, infrastructure and all art is what we’ve tried to adorn life in just a bland world. We have technology which is the most sophisticated way to improve quality of life. Like God, we created everything modern, we have believed in nothing else but ourselves and the energy around us made it possible. Like God, we talk and things happen.

Doesn’t it mean that everything in this world is ours? We are creators, we are artists, we all have a particular purpose, just like Greek gods...the god of poetry, the god of light, the god of sexuality, the god of the sea...we’re all that amalgamated into EVERYTHING. And as much as I say we’re all gods, that just means that we are single parts of a greater entity And that greater entity...is EVERYTHING.”

He looked at me and smiled. “So if you say we are single parts of a greater entity, shouldn’t it make sense why we’re here? I mean, two thousand years from now, who would know about William Shakespeare or any other legend in the books? I fear we may live thinking life is about leaving a legacy, whereas it’s just about living in the moment and loving everything, including everything you have on Earth.”

I squinted. “Elaborate.”

“I mean, life is obviously not about leaving a legacy...I may have a kid one day who I may leave my multi-billion company to...if she wants to be just an artist or far off from what I wanted her to be, then what’s the use of that? Your mom and dad taught you everything, but you’re here with me smoking illegal weed on their backyard. Do you see how senseless life is? How everything is just temporal? Everyone you have, myself included?” He looked at me and frowned.

I smiled. “Life may be very senseless, but I think that’s the point. The mystery itself is the most enticing part. To not know when either one of us may die, may separate...I don’t think certainty is the answer, although it would be great to get a time machine and explore the future, but what if there is no future, no time, and everything happening right now is just The Universe’s favourite comedy channel or favourite video game?”

He laughed. “Now that would make sense.”

He bent his head and kissed my lips. “Let’s go inside. I’m famished.” I said.

I got up and helped him up as well. We went inside. Benjamin received a call as I helped myself with some pizza. I set up the sound system, connecting my phone. I poured Benjamin and I single glasses of wine. He embraced me from behind, kissing the back of my neck. “Jeremiah asked if he can come over, just for the late-night cruise we had in mind.”

“Sure.” I smiled.

“He said he’s ten minutes away. Do you need to get dressed?”

“No, actually.” I laughed. He smiled at me.

“You look perfect anyway.” He held my waist and we kissed.

Touch his crotch, I’m sure it’s big.

I stopped kissing him and I paused. That was the weirdest thought I had so far, it shocked me. He looked at me with a smile. “What is it?” Behind the smile, I could see he was nervous.

“I had the weirdest thought. Ever.” I snorted, feeling embarrassed. Benjamin had come to understand my insanity, even to a point where he’d want to hear my most absurd thoughts. He found them intriguing.

“What was it?”

I sighed, remembering the no-more-secrets rule. ”Touch his crotch, I’m sure it’s big.” I recited with my eyes closed.

“Argh, and I thought it was something about my breath.” His eyes rolled. He instantly took my hand and put it on his enormous fruit. I almost screamed, but I tried to make my face be as calm as possible. He made my hand squeeze it and yep, my thoughts were now satisfied. It was big.

He began kissing my neck. I was becoming aroused. I wondered if it was my thoughts or me who found pleasure while touching his instrument. Because Benjamin wasn’t even holding my hand to it anymore. And not at all did I feel disgusted or nauseated like I usually did when I held Alan or Sebastian in that manner.

It was so hypnotic with the high, highly hallucinogenic. Like a sexual trip. One that didn’t involve sex, yet felt like it did. He overpowered me to the extent that I ended up on the kitchen floor with him. His hands went inside my pyjama pants, which made me flinch at first, but the soothing warmth of his fragile hands made it feel even more sensual.

His tongue went inside my mouth and as disgusting as it may sound, however, I enjoyed the tongue wrestling. I was certain that we were going to have sex on the kitchen floor. I slid off his leather jacket as he kept on kissing me from my neck to my chest, beneath my pyjama top, like a fucking predator dining on its prey.

A knock interrupted us. My body jumped beneath Benjamin’s. “Who is it?” Benjamin yelled.

“The fuck are you talking about, it’s me dude.” Obviously it was Jeremiah.

Benjamin stood up and tucked his belt, including his shirt. I stood up as well and fixed myself. My mouth still felt dry from the intense kissing we did. Jeremiah entered with a furrowed eyebrow. He was followed by Gabriel. I gave Benjamin a sharp gauzy look. Did he invite Gabriel too?

“Hey man.” Benjamin dapped them both. They entered as he closed the door.

“Sup son, you’re good?”

“I didn’t see you for almost a week after the burial.” I was a bit angry. His disappearances were starting to irk me.

“I had stuff to do,” Gabriel replied boldly.

“We all do.” Hot flare almost left my nose as I couldn’t help but be angry at him. I wasn’t demanding his attention, but I hated him not being there all so abruptly because he has ‘stuff to do’. I hated how secretive he was sometimes.

Jeremiah gave me a hug, despite the incremental growth of ambivalence occurring in the atmosphere. “You had any plans tonight?” He whispered.

“Yeah. I did.” I gave Gabriel a stare, which he ignored. “Not anymore, I guess.”

“Great. We’re going to Alan’s.” Jeremiah smirked.

“WHAT?!”

Benjamin and Gabriel cheered. “YEAH!”

They trooped out of the house like wild monkeys, leaving me with no other option but to join them. I lamely locked the house and jogged to the car, as they didn’t stop hooting at me. I jumped in, literally, because Jeremiah owned a convertible. It was a sport’s car, a black, expensive-looking, sports’ car. It still never failed to amaze me. Although I wanted Benjamin’s red Ford Mustang to drive me around for a change.

They sped off as Washed Out tunes began blasting in the stereo. I was the only one who was bothered by the coldness. They, on the other hand, were too jolly and probably high to feel anything, even a car accident coming. I was still mad at Gabriel, who seemed to not give any fucks about me. Why exactly was I angry? Because I cared? Because sex did actually mean something?

I slept with Gabriel, fucked him! I couldn’t sweep that under the carpet like anything. I was suddenly attached to Gabriel in a very brain-sick way. I wanted him in front of my eyes every time, I wanted him to give me attention again, him to talk to me like he used to but not at all was he bothered by my outbursts.

We arrived in Garden Heights. Memories stung the gashes of my brain as it tried to ruminate the times I came running to Alan’s apartment at 3 am in the morning, running away from Cynthia. Only Jeremiah knew the story, and no one else, in the car. He knew, only because I had driven to his house after another episode from mom too.

He looked at me from the rear-view mirror, and his jovial smile disappeared. Benjamin and Gabriel made revolting boy-noises. As if this was a boys night out. I still had no idea why we were there, parked across the street by Alan’s house. His car was at his porch, with every light in the house still on, implying that he was awake.

“What are we doing here again?” I hopped out of the car.

“We’re here to throw eggs at both his car and apartment,” Jeremiah replied.

My face contorted to a bewildered expression. “Why? What has he done?” Actually, now that the idea was pitched, I was a bit intrigued to throw an egg or two.

“Didn’t appreciate you. He still didn’t give any fucks when he was in Clever Cats for the funeral. He still didn’t try to explain why he dropped you...” Gabriel narrated.

“But I do. I know why he dumped me.”

“Why? Because he, at some point, ran out of support tickets? Ran out of patience? Kindness.” Jeremiah walked towards me. “I never gave up on you, Adrian, and here we are. He didn’t and still doesn’t deserve you.” He yelled mildly as he held two eggs towards me.

“Our breakup wasn’t that bad.” I whimpered.

“You grieved for your relationship for a year, even when Sebastian was around. Dude, take the eggs and throw at least two at his car and his house. It will make you feel better.” Jeremiah held the eggs towards me again.

I sighed. Of course, I wanted to do something to make myself feel better for a change. Alan didn’t dump me because too much was going on in our relationship or anything, but there were rumours about him cheating. His reputation made it even harder for me not to believe the rumours. I went through shit because of him. One picture of mine circulated all over social media, bashing me for dating such ‘a perfect guy like Alan’.

He was physically perfect, yes, however, I became a burden to him. All he had to do was to support me, as I did to him too. He made me feel as if everything was my fault as if I was holding him back as if he needed to grow individually and apart. Rumours circulated again that he was back with an ex in college, then from there, he slept with multiple men and women. Alan, after all, was bisexual.

My hand took one egg and I just laughed. They all looked at me, anticipating my move. “Wait...we need to make this as cinematic as possible. Jeremiah, give me a cigarette.”

Jeremiah, in silence, took out a cigarette and a lighter. He lit it for me as I pulled once. I was still high, however, the decision felt sober.

I threw the first egg, then the second. Jeremiah gave me the entire dozen of eggs and I never stopped throwing. Gabriel helped out, throwing some on his car as I threw mostly on the walls of the house.

We jumped in as soon as the car set off an alarm and as Alan sprang outside to see, we had already driven off. I, hyperventilating, not because I was panicking, for a change, but because that was more fun than I expected.

“How was it, ba...” Benjamin whispered.

“FUCKING AWESOME!” I screamed.

The boys halloo-ed as they dapped. I don’t know how that brought them closure, but I sure did. I was finally at peace because I expressed myself. I did what I thought I’d never do and it was fucking therapeutic.

We drove back into Belvyn and I couldn’t seem to feel the cold anymore. I halloo-ed too as I let my hands float loose in the air. The boys halloo-ed with me again and like a pack of wolves, we always stayed together. No matter what.

Present:

Gabriel and Jeremiah stayed until midnight the previous day, and Gabriel could tell I didn’t want him sleeping over, only to leave a note the following day saying he ‘had errands to run’. The fuck!

I looked at Benjamin again. I didn’t really like morning kisses. I thought they were disgusting, although every man I have ever dated believed that it showed authenticity in a relationship.

I quickly jogged to the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth. My face was covered in light bruises. I hated it, although Benjamin would stare at it in admiration and grace.

A knock came from the door. I assumed it was Cynthia. But she had her keys and never, even on a single occasion, knocked at her house. I descended downstairs and ran to the door. I opened and anticipated, it was two policemen. Both wore black shades like in the movies, only it was real. I assumed Benjamin or Cynthia was in trouble.

“Mr Spector?”

“Yes?” I replied nervously.

“Please come with us to the police station.” One of them said. My eyes widened.

“Is there something wrong?” I asked.

Benjamin, who was now awake, held my waist protectively. “Adrian, what’s going on?”

“We’re taking Mr Spector to the police station to ask him a few questions.”

“Should I call Cynthia?” Benjamin panicked.

“No. Call David, my dad.”

“You’ll be okay babe. I’ll follow right after you.”

I nodded. I walked out of the house attired in my pyjamas. The police car waited with open doors. I entered through the back. They got in and drove off.

It’s not like I didn’t know why this was happening. I did. However, I didn’t expect two officers in front of my door. I thought about everything. I thought about the dead jocks, Daniel’s suicide, Cynthia for whatever she had done...I was not certain exactly as to why I was being escorted in a police wagon to the police station. That made me nervous.

I was taken to the interrogation room. That’s when I panicked. The room was silent, with a mirror on one side of the wall and an empty white desk in the middle of the room with two chairs sitting across each other. Other than that, it was the loud silence I heard in the room that made me even more frightened than I was. But I also kept silent and meekly sat down.

A certain female entered. She was attired in a blue jean and a formal shirt with a badge on the left side of her shirt with her shades hanging on her shirt between her cleavage. Her hair was a tight, well-combed ponytail with tight, strong cheekbones that reminded me of Angelina Jolie. The clack of her heels at least created sound in the vacant room. “Thank you, gentlemen.” She said with a deep voice.

The two officers left. “Officer, can you tell me why I’m here?” I finally said.

“You don’t? I was hoping you could tell us, Mr Spector.”

“Adrian! And no, I don’t.”

“Right...let me recite your rights for you. You have the right to an attorney, to be silent, to make a phone call...”

“I think I’m well aware of my rights, ma’am. And I thought this wasn’t an arrest. I need to know why I’m here.” I was now becoming upset.

“Good then. And no, this isn’t an arrest, consider it as a cup of coffee with a friend. You are aware of the sudden murder and disappearance of the five students from Clever Cats High School, correct?”

I slouched in my chair. “Yes.”

“The five students were reported to heading to a bottle store the same afternoon your school held an event. You were not there. Why?”

“I bunked to hang out with Gabriel, my friend.” I tried to answer confidently. Beneath the table, my hands were trembling.

“And tell me exactly what happened afterwards...what did you do and where did you go.”

“...Jeremiah, Gabriel and I went to buy alcohol, we hung out at my house and drank the entire night. ”

“So you were not in Lake Smith?”

“No.”

“According to our report, a gunshot was heard from Lake Smith, followed by four others. Five in total. Where were you at 2 pm?”

“I can’t remember checking the time, but I assume we were on our way home from the bottle store.”

She walked towards me, her heel clacking made it seem even more dramatic. “Listen kiddo, I like you. But this is a murder case and if there’s anything you’re hiding from me concerning this incident, I suggest you inform me now.”

“And why would you speculate that I was involved?”

“After the gang-rape that took place in Clever Cats, a boy whose name goes by Adrian Spector was raped and deserted at the restrooms. They, on the other hand, were known as your alleged rapists, excluding one.”

My body froze. “I was raped yes, but I’m not so certain it was them.”

“Mr Spector, why didn’t you report the crime?”

“Because I didn’t want to be another rape victim whose name goes unnoticed. Maybe if I found confidence in our justice system, I would have.”

“Right. So you believe in taking matters into your own hands?”

“I don’t. I believe in moving on.”

“Is that what you did too after you heard that the five students were dead? You...moved on?”

“They were none of my concern, ma’am. So yes, I did move on.” I looked into her eyes.

“I see. And the day Daniel committed suicide, where were you?”

“Where was I? That’s not specific!” I could feel my chest enclosing from the anxiety.

“Specifically at 7:34 pm?”

“I was at Mia’s, my friend.”

“You were seen speeding off from Mia’s apartment, driving at 90 kilometres an hour in slow lanes...” She gave me a picture. It was my car, passing a red light. “You must have been in a hurry there! You didn’t see the red light?”

“I didn’t. I was too furious.”

“About what? Daniel’s death?”

“No. It was only after that I heard the news.”

“You never get the news in time, do you? And you were seen turning back to the bottle store, is that true?”

“Yes.”

“Why? To drink and drive?”

“No! Gosh! Gabriel called me and told me to turn around...when we met that’s when he told me that Daniel had committed suicide.”

“And where did this Gabriel receive this information from?”

“I don’t know. But they were friends for the longest time, I’m sure that’s why he was informed sooner.”

“Are you really sure? So it’s not because he had something to do with it?”

“It was suicide. How was he in any way involved in that?” My voice shot up.

“Mr Spector...Daniel did not commit suicide. From the CCTV footage we found at Daniel’s apartment, Daniel was functionally forced to shoot himself in the head.”

My eyes widened. “That’s not true.” My eyes teared.

“A certain gentleman, covered in a facial mask, pointed a gun towards your friend...they communicated for a while until Daniel was handed a second gun coming from the perpetrator’s waist and practically forced him to shoot himself...” She gave me a video player and pressed the play button.

And I saw him. I saw the blond hair. Daniel seemed to have known him too. They were in his bedroom. The first seconds of the video, Daniel looked frightened and as the video progressed, he seemed to know who was behind the facial mask. The perpetrator forced him to write something on a paper and made him seal it in an envelope. He then gave Daniel a second gun, forcing him to shoot himself. Daniel’s body jumped when the gun fired, his body flew to his bed, splattering his blood on both his linens and bed.

His face had exploded into a splash and splutter of wet blood and eyesore imagery. The mysterious perpetrator ran out. In the room they had a bucket, so fortunately I vomited in it. Was the bucket to prepare every victim or interrogatee for regurgitation? I sobbed for Daniel again, this time even angrier.

“Do you know the perpetrator, Mr Spector?”

I sat there, unresponsive. Of course I knew who the perpetrator was, but giving him the free ticket to jail time wasn’t something I had planned for him. No. I wanted to starve him, deprive him of everything and watch him cry for mercy. I wanted to see him squeal in pain and suffering. I wanted him to requite for everything. But I asked myself this: how did the letter get to Mrs Ravens, then to me? “I don’t.” I replied absentmindedly.

“The perpetrator is believed to be the second prime suspect behind the murder of the five students from Clever Cats. The first suspect is you. You, Mr Spector, had every reason to kill every one of them. You felt imperiled and not cared for, no one insisted that your case must be reported nor were you at least persuaded. You were angry and because of allegations, you may have believed that the five students may have been behind the gang-rape that...”

I shot up. “But I didn’t. I didn’t kill anyone and I’d appreciate it if you stopped putting words in my mouth. As I’ve said, I didn’t report them because I wanted to move on. That perpetrator probably has more reasons than I do to kill everyone in that school.”

“Who said anything about you killing anyone, Mr Spector?”

“THAT’S WHAT YOU FUCKING INSINUATED!” I roared, banging my hands on the table. “I lost a friend! And none of you tried to get to the bottom of it and all you do is speculate that I single-handedly was involved in the murder of five students who I don’t even give a shit about. Y’all are fucked up! The perpetrator’s getting away with evidential murder, and you’d rather stand there making postulates and insinuations about me?”

My voice deepened, now burning in ferocity. “Listen here, lady...I am not the only one enraged towards that school. People have been raped, assailed and harassed in that school and not even the reported cases were answered! So...everyone in that school has every reason to exterminate those dead motherfuckers!”

She sighed, now lost all her cockiness. “I know you’re upset, Mr Spector, but we’re trying to attend to the matter as fast and as wary as possible before more damage is done.”

“Well...too fucking late!” My teeth gritted, looking directly at her eyes.

The door opened. I never took my eyes off the officer, or detective, or whatever she called herself. “Son?” A voice so familiar rang in my ears.

I looked at him. My eyes softened. “Dad?” I stood up and slowly approached him.

We hugged, slowly and passionately. I took in his aromatic smell as tears fell down my eyes. He wasn’t so much of a long hugger, but he did stroke my hair like he used to with a crystal beaming smile. “You’re so badass, you know that?”

I scoffed. That was the most inopportune place to laugh about my interrogation. “Stop, dad.” I replied weakly.

“Detective Lucy, under no jurisdiction were you permitted to take my son without a warrant! You do that again, without any evidence or warrant involved, I will make sure that you lose everything you have all in the name of justice. Do you hear me?” David exclaimed furiously.

“Yes, Mr Spector. I apologize.” Her face descended to the floor. She left the room.

My eyes widened. Did I just see David threatening someone? David, the cheesiest and nicest person after Carmichael, raising his voice to another person? Did I just see that occurring? “Did you just threaten someone?” I looked at him with a furrowed eyebrow.

“I’m only nice to you, kiddo. I can be a vicious badass too sometimes.” He smiled. He smiled a warm, fatherly smile.

I laughed. My face turned methodical again. “I’m glad you came, dad.”

“Where’s Cynthia?” He looked at me.

“I don’t know. She’s never around nowadays now that Nana’s gone.”

“I heard. I was in Hamburg when I heard the news, and I couldn’t be back in time for her burial.” He walked out and I followed out of the interrogation room. Finally! A breath of fresh air as we stepped outside the station. “Benjamin called me and told me you were arrested.” He blankly left it there as he got inside the car.

I got inside the car as well. “Yeah, supposedly.”

“Why? Pot?”

“Gosh! No dad! There’s a felony...five students killed at Lake Smith and my friend Daniel who killed himself.”

He smiled. “I’m kidding, I know. And I know you couldn’t have been in any way affected.”

I looked at him, he responded with a wider grin. He drove off and on the stereo was Black Alaska’s debut album, Dungeons and Skulls. Because he was a songwriter as well, David narrated a story of a conflicted young boy in the mist and harem of women and how he eventually chooses to ‘do what’s right’. On the stereo was the song, Do What’s Right. I’m still surprised how a smack hit like this one never got radio play and climbed on major charts.

Did it matter to him? Did the money, attention from concerts, tours and clubs all matter to him, or was he just content with getting no principal awards and accolades in return?

When the car stopped by Cynthia’s porch, he switched off the stereo. “Do you have something to tell me son?”

I looked at him. Now I sensed tears in my eyes. “Are you coming in?”

He gave me a look, one that was long-spun and considerate. “Yeah.”

We both got out of the house. Benjamin’s car was at the porch too. We entered inside the house and Benjamin was treading around the house. When he saw me, he ran full speed towards me and attacked me with a hug...a secure, long one. “I swear I’m okay.” I let out a cogent laugh.

He reclined and let me go. “Your dad told me not to come.” He looked at David.

“I didn’t want to make it theatrical for you, son.” David smiled.

I truly understood. Benjamin was an emotional grenade. He cried for really anything. “Where were you, dad?” I looked at him.

“I’ll be in the...bathroom.” Benjamin spoke before disappearing.

I scoffed at Benjamin’s lame excuse. David walked to the lounge, insinuating I should follow too. He sat on his favourite futon. I sat a distance from him. “I was in Alex. Things have not been going splendidly for me son.”

“Business-wise?”

“No, everything at work is famous but...my wife and I divorced.”

My eyes widened. “Are you okay? Dad I’m so sorry.”

Tears filled his eyes, although he tried to hide them by bowing his head. “She took 450k from my account and disappeared with it one day, and when she returned, she told me she was doing it to pay some guys in the streets she owed before marrying me. Then she never stopped stealing. I didn’t notice at first because it was furniture, until she took one of the antiques from the living room. She thought I wouldn’t notice but I did, and I divorced her.”

I looked down. “Dad, I’m so sorry.”

He looked down as well.

“...But I can’t sympathize with you.” I continued, now my voice raised. “Do you have any idea what kind of sh...trauma I went through while you were gone? During your marriage with Cynthia and afterwards?”

His eyes widened. “Did you just raise your voice at me?”

“Oh, I have that right! At least if you can’t give me fatherly attention, a safe place to lay my head under and love in general, at least give me the right to be mad at you. ” My voice quavered, now tears falling from my eyes. “Cynthia berated me when you were gone on those business trips of yours. She called me an abomination, she would drag my ankle downstairs only to beat me with a FUCKING baseball bat. Every day, anytime she felt like it. She would walk in my room while I was asleep, dad. And she would asphyxiate me...”

David’s face had turned cynical as if he was trying to exonerate himself somehow. But he kept quiet.

“I’d call you some nights and not even once did you get back to me. I FUCKING needed you, dad. Cynthia...abused me, and it was even much worse when you divorced her. Dad, she went frantic! And I was there attempting to understand why you left me with her, knowing that it’s precisely what she did to you too.”

“What?” His eyebrows furrowed. “Cynthia never...”

“Never abused you? Cynthia, who dragged you out of the mall, threw food literally at your face and embarrassed you countless times...she never abused you? I don’t know how you see it, but to me it was abuse. You didn’t deserve that, dad, but neither did I. YOU LEFT ME HERE WITH HER SO AS TO MARRY ANOTHER WOMAN! Why didn’t you take me with, dad?” I looked into his eyes and numerous childhood memories began to connect as I spoke.

“BECAUSE I’M A FUCKING COWARD, okay!?” He shot up with tears now streaming down his cheeks. “I’m not as smart, kiddo. I left you with her because I was selfish. I wanted to heal both physically, mentally and egoistically. I convinced myself you didn’t need me and maybe my absence would bring you closer, although I had no idea how.

Cynthia used to be so kind, particularly to me. She loved me more than she loved herself. I remember the first time I saw her. It was on our second album tour. She was at the front row, with Marilyn Monroe cherry lips and a white summer t-shirt and blue shorts. Her hair was long, brown and thick. She wore heels everywhere. She was so beautiful.”

Flashback:

“Learn how to be professional, Dave. These girls love your songs, but know nothing about you.” Xavier, his Portuguese band-mate, who played drums, reprimanded him.

They were at the exit with their van waiting for them outside, packing their equipment. Kristen, who played electric, gave David a look. “Don’t think about it, David!” She said in her unique deep voice.

“You guys go ahead...” David spoke absentmindedly as he saw Cynthia again. She had a smile on her face, conversating with her friends. “I’ll catch you guys later. Or I’ll probably call in a motel. My car’s at the lot anyway.”

Kristen’s eyes rolled. “It’s your funeral.”

His bandmates got inside the van after being done packing their equipment and without another word, they drove off. It seemed as if it was one of David’s popular tendencies: to disappear certain nights with certain women. Kristen worried that it would hurt him one day because David was different.

He, David, ran to her. He pushed his hair back first before talking. “Hey...” He grabbed her wrist. Her body turned, so did the heads of every girl at the lot.

Cynthia’s eyes glowed. Really, she did look beautiful. Her skin was a radiant brown colour against David’s pale hand around her wrist. “Hey...Dave.” Her voice was a matured Martha Stewart baritone.

“I’m David. Dave is just my stage name.”

“Sorry for disturbing...David, but girl should we leave or...” One of her friends, Mabel, interjected. She was the typical boujee girl who also was attired in butt-crops, hoops and heels. Her wig only looked put, and not placed, over her head. And she chewed her bubblegum as loud as the rest of her friends did. This was David’s belief.

“Yeah, I think you should go, Mabel. My cousin lives around the block, so I’ll be fine.” She responded.

“Pfft! Okay?!” Mabel walked back to her friends. “She’ getting the D tonight, c’mon girls let’s go.”

Cynthia’s eyes widened, but she looked like she understood why her friend spoke like that about her, how she was certain Cynthia was to have sex with David.

“What’s your name?” He ignored the humiliation that Cynthia never apologized for. It upset him a little bit, but his aim was admittedly sex.

“Cynthia.” She fiddled with her hair.

“Cynthia...” He echoed. “Look...I saw you in the first row and couldn’t get the picture of you out of my mind and...I just had to see you again, say Hi, and maybe ask you out on a date if possible?” If possible was meant to check if she had a boyfriend.

“That would be...great.” She giggled. “And no, I don’t have a boyfriend.”

He laughed a bit. “Do you want to go somewhere?”

“Your band-mates left you. You ain’t gatt no car.” She laughed.

“No, I came with mine. I was running late for the performance, hence the fashionable ten-minute delay.”

“Aaaah! I see.” She tittered again. “Well yeah, we can...go somewhere.”

He owned a BMW X6, a black one. She didn’t seem impressed when she got inside. Even rolled her eyes as David ran to his side of the seat. She was after sex, however, she thought his stage aura was different than his romantic side. She just wanted to ‘get to it’. David saw that in her, genuinely, more than just being interested in her...initially, at least.

David drove off. “Want to grab a couple of drinks at Sarah’s? It’s like this jazz bar two blocks from here.”

“Yeah, I don’t mind.” As long as he’s paying.

They got inside the jazz bar after just a compact drive. They settled by the bartender. The bartender, who seemingly knew David, gave him a glowing smile. “Good evening, darlings. Dave, how you doing?” He had an exaggeratedly feminine character, but David liked him. A lot.

“Hey man. I’m just here to take this gorgeous woman out on one of the best spots around the city.”

“I like her.” He sang and laughed.

Cynthia rolled her eyes. She couldn’t pretend anymore. “Thank you.”

The bartender’s face withdrew. “Enjoy your evening, Dave.” He left.

“You don’t like him?” David laughed.

“I don’t like his kind in general.” Her eyes rolled.

“You don’t like...gay people?”

“Yeah, I don’t. But I’d preferably talk about something else. Like...what do you do besides music?”

As much as that opinion exasperated him and wanted to say something, he didn’t leave his band-mates and drive a female in his car as a celebrity only for him to get nothing in the end. “I’m a college student. Third-year in Business Marketing.”

“But how do you level school with your career?”

“I always study ahead. I’ve always been a nerd.” This was partly the reason why Kristen deemed he was different. David was driving himself to be someone else as a prominently known lead band singer. But something did indeed insulate him from everyone.

“I see.” She seemed dissatisfied.

“You? What do you do?” He smiled to pacify the awkward silence.

“Second year at Boston. It’s Catering, but you don’t find so many jobs there so I’m thinking of quitting.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m not white. We don’t always get jobs even if we have our qualifications and shit, so we fall for the trap. That’s why we always on dope, always underrated. And my mamma’s getting old. She needs to be fed and mitigated from poverty, you know?” She said this with the most Bellington accent ever.

“But you can do that...by staying in school,” David replied softly.

“It’s complicated, David.” She gave him a look. One that showed stress over the topic, instead of defence. “I’m not so intelligent. The more I linger in school, the harder it gets to pay the fees. Bellington is full of people with ambition, just no money to fulfil it.”

"Bellington? You’re from there?” He sounded surprised.

She gave him a look, which was ready to bite his face off if he said something about her hood. “Yeah, I am. Where you from?”

“I was born and raised here.”

“Living with your parents?”

He laughed. “No. I live alone in a bachelor flat. They moved, later on, to Maryland, with my grandparents. But we, I, came back because of the tour. I’m leaving for Belvyn tomorrow.”

“I’ve dreamed of moving to Belvyn. Just to be away from the hood one day and start something.”

“If you were done with your degree and wanted to get a job, what would it be?”

“This is really funny, but...I’d like to own my own bakery.” She grimaced, thinking it was the most outrageous idea.

“Why are you wincing? That’s a great idea. That’s business!” He smiled, loving the passion that burned in Cynthia’s eyes. That made him believe that somewhere inside, Cynthia was a good person, despite her rudeness.

“Oh c’mon. You think people make a career out of that?”

“You make a career out of what you are passionate of. I love Business Marketing and I’m saving up a lot of capital from my trust fund so as to start something major for my business.”

“Nice.” She smiled. She absentmindedly looked at the pianist next to the stage, sitting in front of his grand piano. Several people were around, and even they looked fatigued and famished. She looked at the piano with unambiguous interest. Like she was revering.

“What are you thinking about?” He smiled. He genuinely seemed interested.

She stood up with a smile and her clack of heels followed as she left to walk to the pianist. She whispered something in his ear and enthusiastically, he stood up from the seat, letting the beautiful dame have it. He pianist helped organise a mic for her.

David sat back with a smile but also astounded. He didn’t think she was solemn until...“Ladies and Gentlemen...Hi.”

The entire house arose and whistled at her, which produced a smile across her face. “My name is Cynthia. It’s my first time being here, Dave from Black Alaska who I only personally met today told me it was the most competent spot in the city...”

Heads turned and they saw him. Everyone acknowledged him and gave in even louder whistles and acclaim. “Tonight I’ll be performing ‘The Other Woman’ by Nina Simone.”

The pianist whispered something in her ear, which made her smile even more. “Mr Gray here has insisted on playing the song for me on the piano. Shout out to Mr Gray.” The applause and whistles continued again. Her stage aura was outstanding.

She stepped on the wooden stage with large red curtains as the decorating frame of the stage. A light shone above her, showing her luminescent skin and perfect appearance. She was a beautiful black Ms Americana with teeth that lit as bright as crystal.

The pianist began playing with the keys and in seconds, the smile on her face faded into a painful, melancholic look. She was stage perfect and camera ready. Her thick, long hair covered her tiny face as her one handheld onto the plucked mic.

"The Other Woman...

Has time to manicure her nails

The Other Woman...

Is perfect where her rival fails

She is never seen with pin curls, in her hair

The Other Woman

Enchants her clothes with French perfume

The Other Woman

Keeps fresh cut flowers in each room

There are never toys that’s scattered everywhere

And when the man comes to call

You find her waiting like a lonesome queen

’Cause to be by her side

It’s such a change from old routine

A-ah-ah-aha-ah-ah-ah-hah

The other woman..."

Her falsetto as she went octaves higher made all the men in the bar insane. She was so elegant in the light. Her slow sways, her extensive inducing feminine voice. David watched her as he allowed himself to be captivated in the midst of her beauty. It was addictive to watch her, hypnotic to be exact. He could see her as a performer on stage, and not just a blind Bellington girl he met on his tour back home.

He could see her enchanting her imaginary red long dress in that French perfume. He could see her perfect, the perfect wife who cleaned the house, kept fresh cut flowers in every room. He could envision this all on Cynthia that night. She had managed to amaze a famous band member.

She concluded the song. ”The Other Woman

Will spe-e-e-e-e-end

Her life alone..."

The audience gave her rounds and rounds of applause as she did the famous New York pose after superb singing performances. She excitedly ran to David and laughed. “How did I do? Did my nervousness show at all?”

“You were...fucking amazing!” David laughed, still amused.

She sat down as she still held a smile. David couldn’t help but gaze at her in admiration. “Ladies and Gentlemen, give it up for Cynthia!” The pianist yelled in the mic. The applause and whistles reoccurred again, only much louder than previously.

She turned to David and saw the uncanny gaze he had been giving her the entire time. “What is it, Dave?” She tittered.

“I am so marrying you one day.”

“You wish.” She laughed.

Present:

“Dad...I need to leave this house.”

He sighed. “You can’t...”

“She’s changed. She’s not the woman who you thought, who I thought she was. It happens and we don’t ever have to blame ourselves for that. She chooses the way to respond, whether she decides to be a bully or not.”

“I’ll take him.” Benjamin, out of nowhere, interjected in the conversation.

David’s face changed. “And how are you in any way...”

“He’s my boyfriend, dad.” I sighed. He, David, didn’t know Benjamin, which made him anxious. Belvyn was popular for gangsterism and crime and every parent would assume that every boy out there is either a thug or involved.

“Your boyfriend? You broke up with Gabriel?”

“Dad, I never dated Gabriel. And this is disrespectful to Benjamin!”

“Eh, I’m just kidding son.” He laughed. “Even if I didn’t like him, that wouldn’t stop you. That’s love, son.” He looked at Benjamin with a smile. “Welcome to the Spectors, son.”

“Thank you, sir,” Benjamin answered timidly, but I could see the blush in his cheeks.

“But Benjamin...you live with Sophia.” I looked at him.

“I got this new apartment in Garden Heights. It’s really affordable. I was thinking of this plan but didn’t know how to approach you. Jeremiah told me about the abuse, but I didn’t want to talk about something you didn’t feel comfortable talking about.”

“Where’s your family?” David asked.

“They kicked me out. I never had an actual family, they were my foster parents and I don’t really know how my actual parents died. They’re in Alicedale. I came out to them after the letters.” He then winced, remembering that David didn’t know about the letters.

“What letters? What is he talking about, Adrian?”

“I had an entire chest full of letters, addressed letters, for my crushes. Sophia, thinking that I wouldn’t mind, sent them to the recipients without my approval. From there, things spiralled out of control. We’re no longer friends, but that’s how Benjamin and I began dating. That’s how I’m involved in a murder case.”

“Interesting story.” David grinned.

“Actually it isn’t. Dad, you never asked why I was at the police station.”

“Do you want to tell me why?” His eyebrow furrowed.

I shook my head, baffled. “No.”

He held my hands and smiled a bit. “I’m your father, Adrian. I’ll always be there for you, whether I’m dead, miles away or right next door. But whatever it is you feel you need to tell me, you will let me know. You’re seventeen now, that means there will be things that you won’t need me around for.”

I nodded. “I hear you, dad. So what’s the plan? Are you coming back to Belvyn?”

“Yes. I bought a house in Garden Heights and I’m moving in this summer. I just need a fresh start, or maybe a homely feel. Maybe make up for the time I was gone.”

“And you chose Belvyn?”

“I wanted you to come with me to Alex, but I can’t do that to you or Benjamin. If I was terrible at long-distance relationships, then you’re probably worse.” David shrugged.

I didn’t even deny it. Separation anxiety is one of the worst abnormalities I have had ever since I was a young teenager. I hated goodbyes, death and loss, distance...I would always think of the worst. Which, in return, would give me panic attacks and a lot of headaches. I couldn’t bear seeing or thinking someone or anyone I love leaving, even if it’s to go and buy a gallon of milk from the store. “If you were terrible?” I echoed.

“Sometimes a man has needs.”

“That’s nonsense dad. Or you mean every straight man?” My eyebrow furrowed.

“No.” He smiled. ”Every man has needs.” Benjamin and David sang together.

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