Speak & Listen

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FOLLOW ME

FOLLOW ME

It was approximately a week later, and I had settled well in David’s house. The bond that had been broken was easy mended...because I have longed to fix it as much as he has. It was mutual, that even during his second marriage, he wished he would have found a way to get back to Cynthia, subsequently being there for me as a father.

Alejandro, as I was still sitting on my bed having morning ruminations, knocked on my door. “Mr Spector!”

“Adrian!” I yelled back. I had told him to call me by my first name a thousand times, no hyperbole intended.

“A...drian.” He struggled. “It is time for your morning feast.”

“You mean my breakfast? I could have just had cereal.” My eyes rolled.

“Uh...I can clear everything for...”

“No no! I’ll be right out.”

“Okay, sir.” I heard him walk off.

I had no idea why David found the necessity to get a valet. Alejandro was from Egypt, a small village. He came to Alex to look for a job before David found him, I still have no idea how. I knew dad was compassionate, but not at all did I think he would take a poor stranger from Alex, claiming to originate from Egypt, to make him work as a valet under his very own roof.

But the best quality about him, other than his humility and his exaggerated respect for both me and my father...that man was beautiful. He was always attired in a thobe, what most of us would mistake to be a dress for men, and had long, black curly hair that he sometimes tied or let loose. He had well-cut sideburns and large eyebrows, beautiful hazel eyes and a smooth, clean and radiant bright, light brown skin with noticeably dazzling white teeth when he pronounced his s’s and sh’s. His lips were a fine, damp pink colour and his accent wasn’t so much fluent in English, with a few lisps and skips in phonetics.

He never smiled. Only nodded, stretched his lips to a certain extent or a scoff that never revealed a smile. I had studied him well and noticed that it is not David that seems to be an intimidation or cause of his timidity, but it is the mere discomfort or disbelief that a fellow man would just take you in without ulterior motives. I would have thought so too. David had tried to share a few jokes with him, but a scoff or that small stretch of his lips sufficed.

I went to the en-suite bathroom to do the essentials such as washing my face, teeth and taking a bath. I descended downstairs only attired in my black morning gown, feeling alleviated after the almost hour-long bath. “Morning Dad.” I kissed my father’s cheek as he was seated at the dining table, with a smile to respond to the kiss.

I sat next to him while he delicately held my right. “Morning boy. How did you sleep?”

“Like a baby. Alejandro might be too much on the formalities. Can we invite him to eat with us at the table?”

“Good luck with that.” He chuckled as he opened his newspapers.

“ALEJANDRO!” I yelled. I looked at dad, who had a smile.

Like the galloping of a horse, he ran into the dining room, almost panting. “Yes, Mr...Adrian.”

“Sit down and eat with us.”

“I’m sorry, but I cannot...”

“I insist, Alejandro. Grab a seat, a place and serve yourself.” I smiled at him.

Those eyes gazed at me widened, God! He was so beautiful. “If you insist. With your permission as well, Mr Spector?”

Dad looked at him. “So it took my son to finally get you comfortable to sit and dine with me?” Alejandro’s slight smirk immediately faded. “Anyway...you’re welcome.” David pointed with a hand at the table.

For the first time, I saw a wide smile and my heart froze for long seconds. My breathing intensified as I watched him dish for himself, and once, he looked at me and smiled once more. “Thank you,” he said as he correctly used the knife and fork with the right hands, which I thought he wouldn’t know.

I watched him as he ate, in queer silence, I watched him chew as his eyes focused on the ground, the table, and the food he was eating. My saliva almost fell on the table before I got an almost paralyzing kick underneath the table. “What the...” My eyes widened.

Dad had a look, one that actually didn’t say anything. Like he would deny being responsible for kicking me. “Are you okay, Adrian?” Alejandro asked, his eyes full of concern.

“He’s fine. I was just stopping him from undressing you with his eyes.” David sipped on his cappuccino, looking at me.

My eyes rolled, feeling embarrassed. “No, I wasn’t. And to stop me, you had to kick me?” My voice squeaked. “Alejandro, I’m so...”

I paused when I realized that Alejandro was dying of laughter. It almost brought tears in my eyes. It melted my heart. I saw the amazement filled in my father’s eyes as well. “I apologize. It’s just that...my mother did the same thing to this girl I was bound to marry by sixteen. You see...I was of royalty. A prince bound to marry a princess, but I could not. I did not want to drag her in a world where she would be left abandoned.”

My eyes widened. “And how did you get here? Especially being found by my father in Alex?”

Alejandro looked at my father, for some reason. “Your father found me in Alex, because I had stolen money from my father to flee to another country, where I can find my feet.”

Flashback:

Alejandro was raised in the Tao palace, a small palace that ruled over the village of Tao. A poor village, but the kingdom was considered to be valid and of the adequate standard by other high-royalty palaces, which made the family rich.

The name ‘Alejandro’ was given to him by his Egyptian parents in honour of the country, Spain, that he was born in. His mother was a compassionate woman, giving to strangers and full of love for her sons. She had seven, he was the sixth.

His father, on the other hand, was a cold, cruel man who always played with his moustache. A fearless man who was only married to a beautiful, kind woman like Alejandro’s mother because of the principles of royalty. She hated him, but she never showed the amount of hate and intolerance she had for him for the sake of her children. And Alejandro saw this in her, saw the intolerance beyond the deceptive eyes of her mother, who always said: “Everything is alright my son, why do you worry?”

So when he was sixteen, according to both his tradition and royal principles, he had to be married by sixteen to a selected princess desired by his father from another kingdom, which was called the Theban kingdom. Before the ceremony, and because of the never-ending pressure from his father to ‘behave himself’ and ‘always be ready for the responsibilities of becoming a man and a husband to a wife and a father to kids’, he took his father’s safe money and fled.

He fled to Alex. Alex was an industrial and one of the biggest cities in the province said to have various job opportunities, he was well informed of this. Regardless of his flee, he was still rejected because a) he was sixteen with no work experience whatsoever and b) Alex is known to be one of the most colour discriminative cities in the entire province and was segregated and treated like a commoner, or worse...confused to be Arabic who is stereotyped for always having tick bombs.

Unfortunately, the only clothing he ever owned was thobes(or thawbs). One particular night, after he attempted to sleep in a restaurant’s restroom, the manager literally threw him out of the store. While Alejandro flew out of the restaurant, he accidentally bumped into a certain man. Moreover, his only bag was thrown to him before the manager silently snarled and shut his restaurant.

“Greetings sir. I apologize for the mishap that had just taken place, consequently leading to you dropping your evening meal.” Alejandro’s head bowed.

The man looked at him, but mostly wondering why he had such an excellent manner of speech, but a very poor accent. “It’s all good. Why were you thrown out? Are you okay?”

“I am in perfect condition, sir...I just happen to be without a home to rest my head. They found me in the restrooms and violently escorted me out.”

“Where are you from?” Now the man showed concern, as he sat on the nearest bench with Alejandro.

“From the Tao palace, in Egypt. I had fled from my parents because of a mandatory traditional ceremony that coerces a prince to marry a royal princess by the mere age of sixteen. That was how mom got married to dad. I know how much she resented him, as he was an unkind man, but failed to hide it to his sixth son, which is I, amongst children of seven.” He sighed.

“But why flee to another country? And how without the age...”

“A man by the name of Charles happened to assist me to receive a transport and both the capital to start my first few days in Alex comfortably in motels before I had to live in the streets. He snuck me through, he was a stranger, but I had no idea why he’d help me. But after I had told him I’m a prince from the Tao kingdom, he was willing to help.”

“Your name is?” The man’s eyebrow furrowed, now showing compassion to the young man.

“Alejandro.” He responded timidly.

The man laughed. ”Alejandro is not at an Egyptian name. How did you get the name?” He was beginning to not believe his story.

“Oh, I was born in Spain while my parents travelled.”

He, the man, nodded. “I’m David, by the way. You can come to work at my house. I’m moving to Belvyn, a much smaller town but...I have a son I promised I’d come back for.”

“Where is he now?”

“He’s living with his boyfriend.”

Alejandro gasped. “Is it legal to have same-sex relationships here?”

David read his reaction and scoffed. “Dude, my son is gay and has never been forced to be with any woman. He has introduced about three of his boyfriends to me. One of the three is the one he lives with now. I just...had to help his mom first recover from drug addiction...I didn’t know until she told me that she has been abusing my son as he was abusing me too.”

Alejandro seemed confused. “The mother of your son used to...abuse you? Drug addiction?”

David groaned. “Wow! You were seriously groomed in a palace. Women can abuse men...and she did that to me and eventually my son for a long time. When I wasn’t home for business trips, I’d cheat on her as an attempt to escape my marriage. She told me she knew, not even suspected, which made her angry and took her rage out on my son...after years of abuse, I divorced her for another woman, neglecting my son behind. I left my son with her, only for the abuse to continue and worsen. I wasn’t there for him, now I want to be there as much as I can.”

“I’d like to meet your son. You say he is...gay?”

“Yeah. Why?”

Alejandro couldn’t respond. David tried to figure out the sudden change in mood until he figured it out when tears began to escape Alejandro’s eyes.

Present:

As both dad and Alejandro respectively narrated the story, I was almost in tears...yet I needed to know why he was so keen on meeting me because I’m gay. “Alejandro...you’re gay?” I whispered in tears.

“I was told homosexual acts are barbaric and in our land, anyone who practised such would be incinerated in the palace’s furnace. I couldn’t tell my father I couldn’t marry because I’m gay. I would have been thrown in the furnace by my own ruthless father, I know that. So I had to find an escape.” Alejandro played with his spoon, as he was done with his morning meal.

“Well here...being gay is not a thing to widen your eyes about. Maybe it’s an abomination if you’re Christian-religious but since you’re Jewish, I don’t think there are laws that condemn homosexuality.” David sat back, looking at Alejandro.

“Every religion curses an unnatural sexual relationship, even romantic, Mr Spector. But I have learned to accustom to this new place with my identity unknown and where I can express myself fully.” He, Alejandro, smiled at me. “I was hoping we could have conversations later on regarding the whole institution of homosexuality. I wasn’t allowed to be taught much about it.”

“Uh...yeah sure. I can teach you that and also a new way to speak. Dude, you can’t speak like a maid working in a palace. This is David, my father, and I’m Adrian. It’s as simple as that.”

“Tried teaching him that for a long while.” David sang under his newspapers.

“We can drive around today at noon.” I smiled. “Grab some ice-cream, go to the arcade? Introduce you to some of my friends?”

I saw nervousness in his eyes. “Your friends...are they...”

“They’re gay, bisexual, asexual and only Mia is heterosexual and is a female...and only Jason and Mason claim to be straight from the guys. They will warmly accept you, I know. And no one gives a shit about your race here. Craig is Peurto-Rican, I’m mixed race, Jeremiah is mixed too with Nahoo descent, Mia is of Singaporean descent, Sebastian is white...”

“Sebastian’s your friend now?” David laughed behind the newspapers.

“Isn’t he?” Alejandro asked with a smile of concern.

David laughed.

“You remember when dad said I had three boyfriends?” Alejandro nodded. “Sebastian is the second one.” I smacked my head.

“I am very interested in meeting your friends.” He smiled widely. His smile was so contagious, it easy contaminated me as well. “Right, let me clear the table since everyone is done dining.” He broke the seconds-long eye bond we had, smiling at each other. That sixteen-year-old boy looked like a man!

He graciously cleared the table as I helped out. We both headed to the kitchen in silence. Instead of just using the dishwasher, he preferred washing the dishes manually, which contradicted what you’d think a prince does in a royal palace. I’m certain he didn’t have to even lift a finger to get what he wanted, even if it was a television remote a few inches away from him.

“Why are you washing the dishes...manually?”

“The maids in the palace would stop me and thought it was unsuitable for a prince to wash dishes. Now that I’m not a prince in Belvyn and just an ordinary sixteen-year-old boy, I can do normal things that normal people do.” He spoke charismatically.

I nodded as I sat on the kitchen counter. I apologize for this and may sound a bit paedophilic, but I stared at him as he washed the dishes, dried and packed. He was used to my silence and never looked to see me drool over such beauty. Alejandro’s hair that morning was tied, I failed to try and forget his smile. His body was tall and athletic, had a wide back, muscular hips and hairless legs. Oh my god, that kid was unexceptionally beautiful.

“Adrian...what are you looking at?”

My mind snapped back into reality. My heart beat vigorously as he was now taking off his apron and approaching me. He was as tall as me, even as I sat on the kitchen counter. “I’m just thinking...of a lot of things you said and David said about, you know, your background and everything.”

“It is not something I had said to mean sadness to someone else. I apologize.” Alejandro frowned.

“No no...it makes me think of how strong you are. You fled to another country because you didn’t want the affliction of your father, but did all that because you didn’t want your right to be gay to be infringed. Some would think fleeing is cowardice, but I think you met David for a reason and subsequently...me.” I grinned.

He let out a soft laugh, looking down. “David says you’re strong as well. I don’t think it’s okay to for me to pry...but judging from the things he said you went through personally makes me think you are a strong person too...a stronger person than I’ll ever be.”

He extended his hand. My eyebrow furrowed. “What’s this?”

“A sign of respect for you. Basically to say thank you.”

I got off the counter and held his hand. I then liquidated into a limp. His hazel eyes looked directly back at me like they were summoning me. I have no idea what made me near to his face, particularly his lips and how we got that close in the first place but his hand trembled and his eyes began to blink nervously.

“Adrian...I cannot kiss.” Alejandro whispered.

I began hyperventilating. “OH... I wouldn’t take advantage of you like that. It’s not like I had any idea how I got so close to you that I almost made contact with your lips anyway and how that gesture may appear...”

“Adrian...calm down. Your father did not see us, because that would end up with my job or stay in this house terminated. Second, you’re speaking like a maid in a palace. And lastly...I literally cannot kiss. My lips were meant to be sacred only for my mother and wife.” He giggled.

I giggled as well. “Wow...well I’m sorry about that.” I began to calm. “I was beginning to think it had something to do with my breath or something. It’s easy to think and believe the worst of myself, must be the anxiety.

“Anxiety?” He echoed.

“Yeah I suffer from this chronic anxiety disorder whereby I can’t chain or hold my thoughts from embarrassing me and whatever I say may be an intentionally explanatory while to others, it’s just blabbering so...it’s always been the feeling of wanting to apologize for everything because I think...maybe you would be angry about me subconsciously attempting to kiss you or jeopardizing your stay in this house. It’s easy for me to think of the worst. Unfortunately, my thoughts come out in blabbers...aaaand I think I am blabbering now, ain’t I?” I paused, realizing I was running out of breath.

“No, you made perfect sense. My mother has Generalized Anxiety Disorder...so I understand how it’s like to deal with someone like that. Researching about it after she told me about her doctor’s diagnosis helped me to understand her better and well...it helped me to understand you. Is it Generalized Anxiety to you too?”

I nodded.

He, in silence, hugged me and I took the opportunity. It didn’t feel like I was hugging a crush, but I was hugging a brother I never had. It felt distantly familiar. He let go after what almost completed a minute. “Right. I’ll take a shower and be right down.” He excitedly left the kitchen

“And please don’t wear a thobe,” I spoke through my teeth.

“I heard that, Adrian!”

I smiled to myself. I instantly got a call from a person I least suspected...Mia. “Hello?”

“Adrian...case isn’t over. The police said investigations will be made and I assume his case would be a huge one, with a lot of loopholes that drags all of us in it.” She panicked. “Fuck, Adrian. Craig told you not to do anything that...”

“But I did, Mia. It’s done! Now we have to find a way to make sure that nothing traces back to us. Why we were in Nahoo, why Jeremiah was really there and who killed Niall and dumped him.”

She sighed. “Gabriel wants us to talk about it at Craig’s. Craig is flipping out as we speak.”

“You’re already there with him? With Gabriel in the room as well?”

“You’re the only one who’s not here, Adrian.” Her voice was sterned. “You need to make it here now.”

“I can’t. I promise Alejandro a date.”

“Who the fuck is Alejandro? Why should I care?” She cussed.

Yeah, I deserved that. I had to cancel plans with Alejandro. “Okay, I’ll cancel. I’ll be right over.”

I ended the call and ran upstairs. Dad saw my panic as I paced up the stairs. I knocked on the bathroom’s door, where he was already taking a shower. “Alejandro?”

The water against the tiles was loud, which compelled him to scream. “Mr Adrian!”

“I’m afraid I have to cancel our plans today. Something came up and my friend needs me. It would be inconvenient to introduce you at a crucial time.”

“I hear you, but is your friend certainly okay?”

“She isn’t. That’s why I’m cancelling. I need to rush. I’m sorry, we’ll talk later. Bye!” I rapped my words as I grabbed my car keys from my room, pacing downstairs. When I was about to leave, David caught my wrist. “Adrian, what’s going on?”

“Dad, I will explain when I get back.”

“Explain now, dammit! By now, you should know I’m informed about everything.”

I sighed, not even wondering if his statement was true or not. “Mia just called and they’re all in the house with Gabriel...”

“WHAT?! Is he trapping them in the house?” David whisper-yelled.

“No no...Gabriel was the first to find out that they’re investigating what really caused Niall Johnson to commit suicide. I mean...how reckless Craig can be? That idiot dumped him in Lake Mouth. LAKE MOUTH! One of the most visited places in the town!”

“Craig wasn’t the one who disposed of him in Lake Mouth. I did.”

My eyes widened. I dragged him to his study and he shut the door. I could guarantee the study was soundproof. “You WHAT?!” I exclaimed.

“Craig abandoned him and the three other bodies at Sophia’s backyard as an attempt to frame her for the murder THEN visited his father in New Heights.” His jaws clenched. I feared that look on him. “It wouldn’t have made sense why she would commit the crime, anyone but she has the motive to kill Niall and the rest. I dug them up again and dumped him in Lake Mouth, making sure that the gun clung onto his finger to make it look like a suicide.”

“Dad, he had bruises!”

“Niall’s dad, although I haven’t found any personal information about him, abandoned him with an abusive mother who did more damage to him than your boys did. There are multiple reports made by neighbours, but Niall had insisted that she does not get arrested. He was old enough to say so. Now it will just look like his mother was responsible.”

“Who typed the letter? What did you do with the rest of the bodies?”

His face bittered, as he poured in a glass and gulp a small amount of whiskey. “I did. I incinerated the bodies in Alex before burying them in the Greenwich Cemetery. I had to make sure nothing made sense and none of us, me and you, were involved.”

“But dad...this was my mess! Why didn’t you let me deal with it on my own without getting yourself involved...in fact, dad, how did you get involved? What kind of business do you do, David?” My eyes squinted, looking into his face as he failed to connect his eyes with mine.

“All I can tell you is that my hands are never clean. Why? Because I have to make sure you get proper education, good clothes, a car...a life I never experienced growing up. So yes, I run a mafia and the Greene’s are on our backs.”

“Who are the Greene’s? You mean...just Mr Greene?” My heart jumped a beat.

“I don’t trust Gabriel and neither do I think you should too. You should have killed that boy the minute you had the chance.”

“Dad!” I gasped. “Gabriel was only desperate to escape home. To escape that man. Mr Greene is after you, sure, but I know for sure he wanted his son dead. If I had killed him, Mr Greene would have killed me instantly, but I don’t know why he went through so much trouble when...”

“I DON’T CARE WHETHER HE WANTED HIS SON DEAD OR NOT!” He yelled furiously. “All I know is that the bastard wants me and my family dead. Only God knows if Gabriel...”

A knock disturbed us. David and I were paused, looking at each other’s terrified eyes on either side of the table. I opened and Alejandro attired in his house thobe and his hair relaxed, widened his eyes. “Adrian...I thought you had already left. A guest is here to see you.” His face bittered.

I paced to the door, dad followed me. When I got to the door, my heart froze. Dad’s eyes were bloodshot, blood palpitating visibly inside his veins. You could almost hear the grit of his teeth and the slight growing growl behind them. “Gabriel?” I whispered.

He had his luggage and nothing else. Apparently, he didn’t have a car anymore. He was in tears. He was bruised and beaten even more than the last time I saw him. He looked much worse, even his arms had whip lashes. “Help me! I don’t have a place to stay. He kicked me out.”

“You walked from South Garden Heights?” My eyes widened. “He took your car?”

I began crying, memories of Benjamin watching me carry my luggage out his house triggered. I became compassionate again for him, the same compassion that didn’t allow me to imagine a world without him if I had ever shot him. I remember thinking Benjamin would call me back, but after I was completely out of his house, he shut the door on me.

I looked at David, he was hiding tears but the fury that embodied his face hid the tears and the feeling of fatherly compassion very well. He, as a result, stormed off. He loved Gabriel like his own son before he learned that he was to kill me too. He hated even talking about him afterwards. Rather, he was now favouring Jeremiah, the same guy who started this whole inescapable game of guns and violence.

I followed David after instructing Alejandro to keep watch at him, Gabriel that is. “You can’t even admit to yourself that you can’t hate him. You love him too much.” I yelled at dad in tears. “You may have taught me self-defence and subsequently turned me to the monster I am now, but you also taught me redemption. That people can change!”

“You believed he’s changed? Not a traitor again working for his father?” He yelled as he paced around the living room.

“Yes!” I sighed. “And have you seen his body, dad? Do you think he’d work for his father after what he did to him? Would I work for Cynthia after all she did to me?”

“This is FUCKING DIFFERENT!!”

“HOW WOULD YOU KNOW, DAVID! You weren’t there to see what I saw...or feel what I felt when you abandoned me with that woman!” I sobbed. “Gabriel is at the door after the same experience he had with his father. Dad, I’d rather be betrayed again than to be the one to deny him a place to stay. I know how it’s like to carry your bag and hoping that they’d change their minds...but they just shut the door as soon as you’re completely out!

You adamantly love Gabriel as much as I do, no matter how traitorous his act was. I would have done much worse to escape Cynthia sooner too. I would have killed her.” I whispered the last part, as my heart believed that indeed, if I was in Gabriel’s shoes, I would have done exactly the same thing, maybe worse.

David walked back to the door and I followed silently, now wiping my tears. “Alejandro take his bags!”

Alejandro nodded as he took the luggage inside, while dad grabbed Gabriel with his t-shirt inside and shoved him against the nearest wall. “If you ever betray me under my own roof, child...if I ever even get the reason to suspect a traitorous act from you EVER AGAIN, I will literally feed you to the wolves! Is that understood?” David roared in front of Gabriel’s frightened face.

“Yes, sir.” He whispered, trembling.

“Alejandro!” He, David, yelled.

Alejandro ran into the living room. “Yes, sir?”

“Bring a bag, something I can collect things with.”

My eyebrow raised. Gabriel’s too. Alejandro never pried. He disappeared as if he knew why he was sent to bring a bag to collect things. The polyestic, brown sack came. It was like one of those brown sacks used to collect hay. We all walked into the living room, I stood a distance away from both David and Gabriel. David proceeded by opening both his luggage. After digging, and I mean an investigative type of digging, he shoved back everything inside the suitcases with a smirk.

“Your cellphone...give it to me.”

Gabriel, in silence, gave his phone to Alejandro and David threw it in the sack.

“Your wallet or any money that you have on you.”

Now I got confused. But meekly, Gabriel did as instructed and everything he had from notes to cents and the wallet, cards, etc were all put individually in the sack.

“Your weapons?”

Gabriel took out two pistols. One from his back and one, I also don’t know how, from one of his boots. He took out the bullet tape and un-cocked both of them before they were all thrown in the sack.

“Your clothing, and that you’re wearing right now...”

“Dad!” I sighed.

“Son...don’t! I know what I’m doing.”

Gabriel didn’t waste any time. He stripped up to his boxers and everything, socks included were put in the sack. “Do you want my underwear too, sir?” Gabriel asked euphraxically.

“No, but...Alejandro...search him.”

Alejandro’s eyes widened. “Sir...search where?”

“His entire body including beyond the boxers.” Dad had a look as if he was expecting Gabriel to crack. But Alejandro searched everywhere on his body for any particular device attached to him...even as far as doing between his buttocks and genitals. I almost vomited. I could see David holding in a laugh.

“Sir...he’s...clean.” Alejandro winced.

“Prepare a shower for him, will you? HE STINKS! Burn his clothes!” David left us in the room and I was alone with him again. Alejandro followed.

“I already took a...” He sighed, seeing the pointlessness of trying to pacify my father’s fury towards him. “I never thanked you for sparing my life.” He sobbed.

I folded my arms. I was feeling weak around him again. “You don’t have to.”

“You seriously didn’t have to. At least if I ever died that day, I wouldn’t be suffering from such pain and regret. I was desperate for anything, Adrian. I was desperate for the money...now that things have changed, my father hates me and chased me out of his house as you said...”

A flashback came to me. When I was in that “haunted house” in Nahoo, telling him that his father thought of him as dead.

“...I feel mad at myself for not killing myself when I could. I went to Craig and the rest to apologize...everyone is still angry but...I thought of you and how you have every right to be mad at me and Adrian, I am so sorry for...” He trailed off and a short sniff followed.

“It’s all water under the bridge. I forgave you longer than you ever thought of apologizing. Yes, I was hurt but my love for you, my dad’s love for you made it easy for me to forgive you because, in actuality, I can’t imagine a world without you.” I wept.

“Me too.” He sobbed even more.

“I should get you something to wear. I’m sure Alejandro’s thobes will fit, they always look oversized. I assume dad won’t give you your clothes back.”

“Or maybe he’s just skinny. Alejandro.”

I looked at him as he shrugged and we both giggled. “He’s not skinny at all, that I’m sure of. I’ll find something for you to wear and...you can relax about Alejandro not being here to watch you while I’m gone. This house is heavily surveilled with one of the most top sophisticated camera systems in the country. Don’t really know why, but...it’s always a war zone, isn’t it?” I smiled a bit.

I left the lounge. Alejandro was in his room, which didn’t at all looked like a guest room like David labeled. “Hey...Alejandro? Can you borrow Gabriel one of your thobes? The biggest one you got.”

He silently got up from his bed and searched through his closet. He found an oversized thobe, black in colour, and gave it to me. His face wanted to say something until he actually did. “Mr Adrian.”

“Gosh! It’s Adrian, Alejandro.” My tone was sterned.

“I apologize. Out of concern, is that man one of your previous boyfriends you had...”

“Gosh, no!” I laughed a bit. “Gabriel and I have been friends for the longest time. Dad loves him pretty much more than he loves me. But...things just got complicated between us and because his dad kicked him out, I have to help him.”

“Back in Egypt, an act of treason would result in a death penalty. Are you certain you have forgiven the man that betrayed you?” He looked down afterwards. “I apologize again, it’s just my concern about you. I wish nothing bad to happen to you again.”

I walked towards him and smiled as I caressed his hair. “I love your hair when it’s not tied.” You’d think I was skipping the conversation, but in actuality, his untied hair mesmerized me. “And don’t worry, nothing will happen to me. I trust dad and well...I trust the decisions I make, no matter how risky they may be.”

“I hear you. Then I cannot enquire further. And I thank you for your compliment.” He evidently blushed.

I realized I was still playing with his hair. “Uh...” I stopped. “Let me give him this. Thank you.” I nodded, for some reason.

I heard a ‘dammit’ from Alejandro after I left his room, making me hold in a titter as I descended the stairs. I came back to the living room. Gabriel was seated humbly on one of the couches, still comfortable by wearing only a boxer. “Here you go.” I threw it to him.

“Thank you.” He whispered as he put it on. As much as it fits, perfectly, it showed his tempting biceps and parts of his athletic, muscular body. I looked down before my penis thought of giving me a boner.

Don’t you dare fucking embarrass me in front of my traitor.

A knock came from the door. David, who had his car keys with him, stormed to the door. Before he could open, I grabbed his wrist. “Dad...”

“I need some air.” He yanked his arm off me and opened. He stormed out, passing through the guests. It was Mia, Craig, Jeremiah, BENJAMIN, Jason, Mason, Elijah, Sebastian and Alan. It was almost everyone. The guests looked at my father as he stormed off and dangerously driving out the driveway.

I sighed. “Hey.”

“We called you, almost an hour ago. I don’t care what’s going on between you and your father, but we need to talk about this. You can’t hide in this house...” Mia cussed.

“Shut...up!” I whispered. “Something came up.”

“What is it?” Craig whispered.

“I’m going to show you, but can you keep an open mind?”

“Sure. Depends.” Alan said as he invited himself in.

I walked to the lounge as the guests followed. Gabriel stood up anxiously when he saw everyone.

Mia’s face bittered, almost enraged. “You invited this traitor inside your house? What the fuck is he wearing.”

“He’s wearing a thobe, it’s from Alejandro. I gave it to him.”

A hot, unexpected slap landed right across my face. It didn’t sting or hurt, but it triggered a furious feeling. It was Mia, who was now having her tiny eyes squinted into an angry snarl. “You gave it to him? Who the fuck is Alejandro?”

“I’m Alejandro,” Alejandro said as he entered the room, for the first time, I saw a snarl growing on his face. “Who the fuck are you?”

My eyes widened. “Alejandro, you don’t have to be part of this.” I sighed afterwards, feeling sorry for him.

“I might be a guest in this house, but so is she. She has no right to speak of my name in that manner.” He then looked back at Mia. “I will slap some sense into you if necessary. Who do you think you are, slapping Adrian like that?”

“Okay...honestly...who are you?” Jeremiah squinted.

“I’m certain by now you know my name. I live here.” Alejandro responded with the boldest tone.

“Okay.” Benjamin rubbed his eyes impatiently. “We’re really sorry, but we need to discuss something in private.”

“What part of these mischievous acts am I not informed about?”

My eyes widened. Everyone was in utter shock as well. “Alejandro...what are you talking about?” I asked.

“I was the one who kept an eye on you while your father was gone. Your father lied. I had been living with him for weeks since the finalization of his divorce and has known me for the longest time. To keep my identity in discretion, I had to have a background story...to lie to you. But I know all the faces I see here. Mia...Jason...Alan...Sebastian...Gabriel...Craig” He mentioned their names as he looked exactly at them. “But I never knew much about what happened before the letters got out...for example, the three men you dated your father mentioned until I heard about Sebastian. Then it was easy to connect the dots. Alan and Benjamin.

My eyes widened as my cheeks burned. These ‘three men’ were all in the same room. Moreover, I was flabbergasted by the instant change in behaviour with Alejandro, from a humble servant to a private-investigation agent. “David told you everything?” I sighed, now getting tired of keeping track of who knows what.

“Not entirely. He had given me a background, which was also unclear to him until he asked you at some point. I did research on the gang-rape, Jeremiah responsible for the death of five students from Clever Cats High, the idiotic attempt done by Craig Fernandez as an attempt to hide the three other bodies in Sophia’s backyard, the traitorous act done by both Niall Johnson and Gabriel Greene, who happen to be distant siblings...unknowingly.”

“WHAT?!” We, including Gabriel, screamed. Eyes widened.

“Why are you so shocked? Weren’t you informed?” Alejandro smirked as he looked at me. “The father who abandoned Niall Johnson to an abusive mother, a story you, Adrian, relate to, is no one else other than Charles Greene. The father of Gabriel. Still find the necessity to discuss things in private?”

“But why would you inform us of this?” Sebastian asked. “Isn’t this supposed to be confidential between you and Adrian’s father?”

“Not anymore. What’s the use of a hen to incubate her eggs when the eggs have already hatched? I am Alejandro, from Alex where David Spector and I met...and the story remains true. I fled from my home country to live here to escape customary marriage at sixteen. I had not told Adrian’s father the man who helped me flee my country, but now you know...it’s Charles Greene.”

“Why?” Gabriel stood up furiously, walking slowly towards Alejandro.

“Because I had promised to work for him in order to keep and deliver personal information and any information necessary to terminate David. But David had a son, who happened to be close to him...Adrian. I grew attached to Adrian as I read of his articles and seeing him personally made it impossible to carry on working for Charles. So I disappeared on him too, after he had given me the money he had promised me.”

“It was you!?!” Gabriel roared. Craig and Jason held Gabriel as he uncontrollably forced through as an attempt to fight Alejandro.

“Yes. After your frequent disappearances from Belvyn to Bellington, plotting together with your unknowing half-brother to assassinate Adrian, I had to protect Adrian by making you a victim. So I found a man who helped me trace away from the money I stole for him and lead him, your father, to you. So yes, I betrayed you. However, I am not apologetic for what I did as you deserve to die. By the mercy of Adrian and David, you’re still alive...otherwise I could have assassinated you myself.” Alejandro snarled.

Gabriel began to simmer, as he felt guilt and self-blame once more. “How I can trust this information you’ve given me? If Charles had seen you and I hanging out in Crane Park, didn’t you think he would have found you? Or his men?” I yelled at Alejandro.

“I wouldn’t have allowed for us to go to a conspicuous venue such as Crane Park. Adrian, I am not as naive as you are.”

“Naive?” I echoed, feeling offended.

“You trusted Sophia by revealing those letters to her, for her to return that trust in ashes. She stole both your key and the chest and it took you two weeks to find out that your key and chest were missing. Moreover, you got into a relationship with a man who ‘kicked you out’ for a murderous act he, himself, approved not because he was afraid it might lead back to him or because you’re a murderer...it was because he had been working behind your back to both collect the letters and substantial evidence that proved that you were responsible and involved in the plot of murdering Niall Johnson...reasons being him being jealous of Alan and second, it seems to be that he found you kissing William in his vehicle in which he thought you were being unfaithful...this all happened under your nose.”

Everyone looked at Benjamin with widened eyes.

Alejandro continued. “For some reason, perhaps because of compassion and the irrevocable fact that he was indeed involved in the murder of Niall with the probability that any person in this room would have dragged his name to court and out of fear, he did not report you to the police but incinerated the evidence instead.”

“So...” My eyes wetted. “You’re here to collect new information about what we’re planning to do? Huh?” I walked to Benjamin. “So that you can sell us to the cops? Let me tell you something with your dysfunctional penis...I will drag your name to court if I have to, indicate you responsible for both the Lake Smith incident and every incident that came after. Do you fucking hear me?” I roared.

“Yes...I may have done most of the things Alejandro has spoken about but...I didn’t report you because I still loved you. I missed you the instant I closed the door on you but I was afraid that things may lead back to me. In case things failed in our relationship, subsequently, with you plotting something against me, I had to do it first.”

“So you were insecure and being selfish, basically.” Alan scoffed.

“And you were a dick to him too, Alan!”

“I’m afraid you happen to be a penis as well, Benjamin. One that is factually dysfunctional. So that explains his insecurities around Alan and William.” Alejandro smiled, now twisting his face at Mia. “Now look here girlie, I am nothing to toy with. You touch Adrian in that manner ever again, I will bury you alive on top of your traitorous boyfriend!”

My heart jumped, I could hear hearts jumped in the room too. I too was afraid of this new Alejandro that wasn’t so obedient. “Adrian, you have a big room to doubt my loyalty to you and your father, however the stories I’ve heard about you...how you were betrayed, unappreciated and trivialized by your boyfriends and friends...your mother and father...your mental state shaken...I just couldn’t bring myself to being responsible for your murder. You’re a hero to me. I would never wish hurt on you, ever. You have my word.”

“That’s what Sophia said.” I almost wept.

“But I’m not jealous nor do I have reasons to be, which differentiates me from Sophia. Sophia betrayed you by sending out those letters, not in hope that you would find a lover, but because of cold jealousy she had after you kissed Benjamin in a Truth or Dare game?” The last part sounded like a question than a statement as if he didn’t have any idea what Truth or Dare is. “She introduced you to him and knew Jeremiah was coming with at the cafe, hoping that you would be mesmerized by Jeremiah as she thought she could find an opportunity to court or romance Benjamin, who was also a recipient and happened to be homosexual and interested in Adrian instead, that gave her more reason to stay away from you. She thinks you’re a traitor.” Alejandro shrugged.

“Okay, I’m beginning to believe you may be psychic.” Jeremiah laughed a bit.

“I wish. But I just happen to be very observant. And I admire you more, Jeremiah. Craig Fernandez, most. You have done everything in a good gesture to protect, honour and respect Adrian’s wishes, although amateurish. Protected him most against Chris and Brandon, Gabriel and Ben...” His jaws clenched as he snarled again at Gabriel. “If Daniel was still alive, I would have admired him most above you all. He had a genuine heart.” He smiled as he knew him as a personal friend.

“He was.” My eyes wetted again.

“Why are you helping us?” Mia said, now with a tender accent.

“I am only of assistance to Adrian. He’s the one I happen to take most interest and inspiration from. Oh, and I lied again, Adrian...I’ll be 22 years of age by the following month.” He grinned.

“Yeah, that makes sense.” My eyes rolled. “22, can’t kiss and probably a virgin.”

“True.” He smiled. “Back to the reason why you are here before we begin, Benjamin...can I have your recording tape that’s in your bag please?” He stuck out his hand.

We all looked at him again with widened eyes. Benjamin’s eyes widened as well. “Tape? I don’t have a recording tape with...”

Alejandro said with a calm voice. “Jeremiah, may I borrow your firearm?”

“Okay...okay! I didn’t want to take it out because it would look more suspicious. It’s just previous conversations from Craig’s, I swear I wasn’t recording anything! I haven’t even made copies yet!” He took out the tape and handed it to Alejandro. Alejandro threw it on the floor and stamped on it to pieces.

“Why?!” Craig yelled with his hands raised.

“I wasn’t sure I can still trust you guys...”

A less frightening but startling sound echoed across the room as Benjamin’s body collapsed on the floor with blood jumping out from the front and back of Benjamin’s forehead. I looked at Benjamin’s lifeless body on the floor with widened eyes.

I looked at Alejandro, who had a gun in his hands with a silencer. “What...the fuck!?!” I whispered furiously. “On dad’s living room, are you crazy?”

“Adrian...your ex just died and all you’re thinking about is David’s living room?!” Jeremiah put his hand on my shoulder, whispering delicately.

“No traitors!” I laughed maniacally. “No traitors, no more!”

Alejandro stood in front of me. “You need to rest. This may not good for your mental state. Craig...in the guest room upstairs, dig through the second or third drawer and see if you can find any pills. Meanwhile...Sebastian and Jason, could you help me with the body? There’s a furnace in the basement. That’s where we’ll incinerate his body but before that...is there anyone who wants to say something now before we proceed with the agenda?” He looked around.

It was dead silence in the house, except my uncontrollable anxiety, now kicking in. Not because Benjamin was dead, but because there was a furnace at the basement? To kill and hide their bodies and incinerate them there, that’s what the furnace is for? Why would dad own such a thing?

“Okay, Adrian. You need to breathe.” Craig whispered as he held both my hands. “You need to breathe.”

I realized that I was holding my breath and as a result, I breathed. My hands shook, sweated and froze into a purplish colour. Craig sat me down on the stairs and Jeremiah and Mia were in front of me. “I don’t understand this. Where is this Alejandro even coming from?”

“What I don’t understand is: why does David have a basement furnace?” My voice growled. “Could things possibly get any worse?!!!”

“Yes, Adrian. What is worse or doesn’t make sense is how your ex-boyfriend just died, got shot in front of you, and you never even flinched. In fact, on the contrary, you enjoyed it.” Jeremiah whispered, his face written concern.

“I need a smoke!” I blankly said.

“Sure...” Craig took out a cigarette and had to put it in my mouth and light it. I began puffing until I regain feeling in my hands again. I blew the smoke on Jeremiah’s face.

I neared my face towards him, his face tamed as mine burnt in rage. “That bastard assured my dad that he was going to move me in his apartment only to be selfish and traitorous towards his very own partner. That man could have killed me first under his roof because of jealousy and acrimony towards a boy I kissed when I was drunk and Alan who is nothing else but an ex. I mean, who knows what he could have done after this conversation?”

“Jeremiah, reasoning with his conscience now is redundant. Benjamin had to die.” Craig whispered.

Alan was busy cleaning the living room, wiping off the blood like it was just dust and dirt. He was unbothered. He seemed used to this.

Mia paced around. “Benjamin suddenly dies...the cops are going to believe that a third party, certainly, is involved beyond Niall’s murder. I would have done the same, but this just brings more eyes to no one else but Adrian, who was once a prime suspect during...”

Jeremiah returned, after not even noticing he was gone. I was starting to believe I was drunk, cause everything was happening in a flash. “I’m back. I found the pills and a bottle of water. Drink this.”

I looked at the pills and immediately noticing what they were, I threw them furiously down the stairs to the floor. “I’m not about to get high on molly. Where the fuck did he get molly anyway?” I blew out smoke again. “You know what, I want to see it! I want to see the furnace!” I lost my mind and before I could move, Craig and Jeremiah grabbed and gripped me with their bodies and arms. I was on the floor, screaming and fighting futilely to see it.

Alan came to me with widened eyes. “Babe, I need you to calm down.”

“BABE!!!” I was certain now that my mind, for a minute, was lost. “Who the fuck is your babe, Alan?!”

“Dude, are you serious?” Craig roared at him. “Get out of here and call Alejandro!”

“No, I don’t want you to call fucking Alejandro, I want to see that furnace!” I screamed.

David entered and everyone didn’t even pay attention to him. “What the hell...is going on?”

“Sir, Benjamin is dead!” Alejandro returned from nowhere, followed by Jason and Sebastian.

“And what’s happening with my son, why are you caging him like this?” David lowered to my level. “Son, what’s going on?”

“I...WANT TO SEE THIS FURNACE!!!” I demonically roared at his face.

His face dropped, and his eyes ascended to Alejandro. “You told them about the furnace?!”

“Actually about everything. Believe me, he’s not the enemy here. Benjamin was.” Mia defended.

“AND YOU BURNT HIM IN MY FURNACE. YOU IDIOTS! I CAN SMELL HIS METALLIC BLOOD ALL OVER THIS PLACE! My son was not meant to see or hear about it, Alejandro. Especially not him.” He pointed at Gabriel.

“I will inform you about Gabriel’s harmlessness later on over our usual cup of tea, sir. But firstly, we need to focus on sedating your son. He witnessed Benjamin’s death.”

“I WANT TO WATCH HIM BURN!!!” My voice demonically growled.

I wanted to see the treason leave his body, I wanted to hear the sounds of his skin burn in blue and napalm flames. It drove me crazy, literally, to know that I had not witnessed the gratification of watching my traitorous ex-boyfriend burn in fire and his body fossilize from skin to ash, leaving nothing but lifeless black and white bones.

“Son. You need to drink the paraceta...” He looked at the medication and his face bittered. “YOU WERE PLANNING ON PACIFYING HIM WITH MOLLY?! Who does this shit belong to?”

“It belongs to me, Mr Spector. I am asking you to calm down. I had informed them about everything after I found Mia slapping your son. I told them I work for you. Everything they needed to know...reasons being: a hen cannot incubate her eggs when they’ve begun to hatch. They were just going to make stupid decisions that would attract attention to your son. By murdering Benjamin, myself, I...”

“YOU BROUGHT THE ATTENTION RIGHT BACK TO ADRIAN!” Mia yelled. “I may have slapped your son, yes and I apologize and it was only because of your acceptance of a traitor under your roof, clothed him...but killing Benjamin was not the answer. Benjamin recently just dumped Adrian and the cops know so. They know you now live with your father after you broke up with your ex in not-so-good terms.”

“I’ll say I killed him. I’ll take responsibility.” Gabriel said with a sad voice.

“And when they ask where the body is, which house exactly are you going to point? He was burnt in my furnace, IDIOT!” David yelled.

Gabriel looked down, disappointed in himself.

“The disappearances were said to be happening in Bellington too. Adrian just has to deny being involved in the murder. They have no reason to suspect a mere ex. If so, they would have enquired information from Sophia concerning the disappearance of Ryan Hunter last night but...those idiots suspected Walter King in Bellington and because he’s in a human-trafficking business(although outside the country), they think he’d be responsible.”

“Is he dead? And who is?” I asked, now becoming sober.

Alejandro shrugged. “Maybe not. I suspect it’s your first traitor...Sophia. If not, the ‘unappealing boyfriend with the chest hair and tattoos’.”

“MATTHEW?! She’s back with that pig?!”

“Affirmative. I don’t know, unfortunately, how long has it been. She got mixed up with the wrong crowd, Adrian. She might end up dead.”

“Why should Adrian care about a traitor like Sophia? If I wasn’t busy ass-fucking Gabriel’s father, I would have shot her dead myself.” David growled.

“Eew!” Jason grimaced.

As much as the moment was tense, I laughed that one out. Almost everyone followed in laughter, except Alejandro who looked absentminded but temperamentally melancholic. David scoffed with a slight smile. “We just have to make sure that nothing leads to Adrian. I hope we all have the same intentions.” He looked around and saw Gabriel who was a distance away, with his head down.

He, David hugged Gabriel. Gabriel, with widened eyes and a smile of disbelief, hugged back and tears left his eyes. They stopped and dad put his hand on his shoulder. “I admit you reason like a dick. But I love you, as much as I love all of you.” He turned to us. “That’s only if we all have the same interest in protecting my son.”

“You can count on me, Mr Spector.” Alejandro graciously nodded.

“I know I can. I trust you.” David smiled.

“You have my word too, Mr Spector. Your son has shown more than appreciation and affection for people in general, and to me, he’s been always a good friend. I’m in.” Jason smiled.

“I’m in. By now I know who and not to trust. I might not trust some people in this room...” Mia spoke as she snarled at Gabriel. She then looked at me and grinned. “But I trust you, Adrian.”

“I’m in, gorgeous. I’ve never stopped loving you and I will do anything to protect your son, Mr Spector.”

David squinted angrily. “Did you just call my son...”

“You’ll get used to him, dad.” I defended Sebastian before my father threw a fist across his face.

“I’m in. We’ve been through shit together and my mistake was thinking the grass is greener on the other side. I was a kid who reasoned foolishly but, and although we can’t fix a broken mirror, I can stand beside you anytime in times of war.” Alan smiled and habitually bit his lip.

“I...” Craig bravely gave me a kiss on my forehead. “...am in. Because.” He shrugged with a grin.

A chime of laughter followed, even from me. Everyone looked at Jeremiah who had no smile displayed on his face and lack of expression.

He stood up and sighed. “Duh! I’m in. I’m the one who got two letters from this beauty. We have inextinguishable memories together, even Gabriel, Mia and others would testify that. I’d never abandoned you on the last hour. I can’t imagine living in a world without you...”

Gabriel and I shared a look, one so quick that only Alejandro noticed. “So yes, Mr Spector. I would kill for your son again.”

David sighed through his nose and smiled. “Good. Everyone, follow me to my study.”

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