I started to smoke here at Seaside Retreat. After a screaming match with my therapist, I left and bummed one off of this patient named Cran. I’ve been here for a little over two months now. Sixty-three days to be exact. My therapist, Dr. Fowler and I have made some huge strides in my recovery. I talk to her, and I don’t evade her questions like I use to. We’ve discussed before and after the accident. We’ve discussed my love of dance. We also discussed Carter.
That’s what got me to smoke. I fought hard with my therapist. What gives her the right that I should forgive? It’s not going to help me! I don’t even know why I brought up Carter, but I did and now she won’t stop asking me questions about him – or the bullying. Dammit.
In group I talked long and hard about how I felt. Pons kept saying I was a lost and damaged unicorn. She was probably right, I mean I was lost and I was damaged. Gabe and I chatted more than anyone. He opened up to me about Frank and I wanted to kill the bastard all over again. He understood why I didn’t want to forgive Carter at least.
Still, my therapist!
The door opened to the small enclosed outdoor balcony and I turned to see Dr. Fowler. She knew that when I get pissed off during group I tend to come outside and light one up now. “Do you blame him?” she asked.
I shook my head, “Sure, I blamed him at first, but he wasn’t the one that repeatedly hit my car. He wasn’t the one that pushed me down that hill. He wasn’t the one that threw a Molotov bottle at the car. I didn’t even know about that till the incident report came to my dad. They tried burning me alive, but it didn’t explode.”
“So who do you blame?”
“Jason Reeves, Mitchell Collins, and Ryan Hayman. Twelve other people also blame them, and that’s why they’ll never see a day outside a prison wall.”
“So, if you don’t blame him, then why are you angry with him?”
I still didn’t have an answer for that one. I took a long drag to not answer. How could I? I wasn’t angry at Carter, not really. Not anymore.
I put my cigarette out and sighed, “I’m not mad at him. Hell, I don’t even know the guy. We’re just friends on SimFace – or were before I deleted my account.”
Dr. Fowler gave me a lot to think about after that, and I did. I spent another week and a half in the hospital when Fowler asked me, “Do you think you’re ready to leave?”
“Do you?” I asked.
“You’re clearly not suicidal anymore. You’re acknowledging that fact that you can’t change what’s happening. You’re more active in the chair, swiveling around – almost to the point that I’ve seen you dance with it.”
I blushed. Okay so Pons and Gabe may have gotten me into the mood to dance one evening when they were playing music. I started to move my chair to the rhythm of the beats, and before I even knew it, I was dancing with Pons.
“So, you kicking me out?”
“Nope, but I think you need to think about what’s next. Where do you want to go from here?”
It took me a few days to think about. I don’t know why, but I got the urge one evening to make a few phone calls with Dr. Fowler there helping me get through this. First I called Pear to get a phone number, next I called the number he gave me. “Styx here.” The deep, really deep, voice came over the line.
“Yup, that’s me. Who’s this?”
“Jamie, uh, Jamie Rain.”
“Holy shit, how you doing, man? Anna told me you were in the hospital.”
“Yeah, I’m actually in Starlight Shores at Seaside Retreat. Hey, um, I’m thinking about leaving soon and was hoping maybe if it’s not too much to ask, if I can crash with you for a bit. I want to stay close to my therapist, but I don’t have a ton of cash to get a place out here.”
Carter paused and when he spoke he sounded nervous,“You sure you want to stay with me?”
“You wouldn’t be my first choice to be honest, but you’re the only person I know in the Shores. If it’s not too much to ask, I mean, I know you’re probably busy or what not.”
“No, it’s no problem, just surprised. Um, how soon do you want to crash here?”
“How soon can you have me?”
“Give me a week. Let me clean the place up a bit so you can get around. Do you need a ride?”
“If its possible.”
“Let me know when, and I’ll pick you up. It’s great hearing from you, Jamie. Really.”
I laughed, “Yeah, you too. I’ll see you in a week.” I hung up the phone and smiled. I felt as if another weight off my shoulder had been lifted. Dr. Fowler stood there and smiled with me, she knew how big of a risk I took to call.
A week later I was packed. Dr. Fowler was happy to see me leaving. She made me make an appointment with her at her office, and wanted to see me at least three times a week for now. I agreed that I needed her help still. I will probably always need her help dealing with everything that has happened to me.
Pons was there with Gabe, when I was getting ready to leave. Pons looked at me and smiled, “You’ve got your horn, young unicorn.”
I smiled back. I really felt proud for her to say that to me. It felt like I did, sorta. “Thanks, that means a lot, Pons.”
“Before you go, there’s another thing that we unicorns must acknowledge…”
Pons hugged me and I hugged her, whispering to her, “I will never forget you, Pons. I’ll always love you.” I let the tears fall, knowing she would be the only girl I will ever love like this.
“I have trained you well young unicorn. Though you may not see another unicorn in your lifetime, may the horn guide you and you will never fail.”
I looked at Gabe and he stuck his hand out. It was the first outwardly affection or touch he’s given to anyone – or at least from what I’ve seen. I shook his hand. “You take care,” he said to me with strong conviction.
“You too. Don’t let those demons haunt you forever, Gabe.”
“You as well,” he let my hand go and I rolled out the doors to the parking lot.
I found Carter leaning against his black truck, and he smirked at me. “Jamie Rain, looking good kid.”
“Carter. You still okay with this?” I asked.
“I got the place all set up. I moved my room down the hall so you can have the master bedroom with walk-in bathroom.”
“You didn’t have to do that.”
Carter just shrugged, “You sure about this?”
Carter laughed and shook his head, “It’s gonna be weird, but yeah I think it’ll be cool. Just like old times – uh before high school.” I agreed. Those were the best of times and if we can get that back, it’d be worth it. Carter opened the passenger side door for me. “Now, do you need help getting up, or should I let you do this yourself?”
I’m going to need a lift.” I looked up. Yeah it wasn’t like dad’s car or grandpa’s. This thing was high off the ground. “How do you even get up into it?”
“These,” he slapped the foot bars below the rim of the car. He lifted me up off the chair over his shoulder and climbed up his truck to place me into the passenger seat. “Buckle up.”
I seriously rolled my eyes at him. Like he needed to tell me the dangers of driving without a seat belt. He folded my chair and tossed it into the back of the truck bed, before climbing in the drivers side.
We drove in silence for a bit. At the first red light he let out a sigh, “Jamie, really, why me?”
“Because,” I shrugged. “Honestly, I have no fucking clue. I just know that if I go home, it’ll all be the same there. I need a change, and I need to deal with shit. Mom, dad, everyone walks around me like they are on egg shells. I need to deal, and they weren’t helping.”
“And I can help?”
“Strangely, yeah, I think so. I mean, I have to accept this is who I am, and to do so I need to forgive someone for getting me here.”
Carter took a deep breath, and nodded. He didn’t say it, he didn’t need to. I knew he was sorry, and he knew it. He drove in silence again, and I watched as his eyes filled with tears, but he fought to control them.
At the house, he helped me out of the truck and pushed me inside. It was a one story, three bedroom, two bathroom house. He gave me the grand tour before moving me back into the living room and grabbing us both a beer. I moved myself to his sofa and sprawled out. “You know this isn’t what I expected, you living all domestic and clean. This is less like a bachelor pad and more like a married couple’s home.”
Carter laughed as he walked in with a beer, “Anna and mom helped . . . a lot. Mom told me about our dads’ apartment and claimed that no son of hers was going to live like that. So, Anna and mom came up and I did the heavy lifting while they picked out the colors and decor.” Carter shrugged and sat down.
“Well, they did a pretty good job. Bet the ladies like it.”
Carter shrugged, “I haven’t had a complaint.” After a laugh from both of us, it got uncomfortably quiet. We just sat there until finally Carter broke the silence. “Look, I have a hell of a lot to make up for. This is your house and I want you to be comfortable here. I don’t know how this is all going to work out, and I don’t have all the answers, but I don’t want you to think you can’t live your life.”
I arched a brow.
“This is driving me mental,” he stood and started to pace. I moved into a more sitting position. “I’ve had only a couple of days to wrap this idea around my head. You know I’ve always struggled with homosexuality, we won’t even get into that. I will say, I still do, but I also know that you are gay and I have to accept it. So, the way I see it, is if you or I have a date over or something, that we should at least be warned.”
“I don’t date much, and I don’t know about you. I just thought that if the time arises that we know what to expect now, then stepping over a line. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable if I bring a woman here, and I don’t want to be uncomfortable if you bring a guy here. So, maybe if we are going to, we’ll call each other and make sure it’s okay.”
“With you so far.” I wasn’t even thinking about dating for a long time, but I am glad that Carter is being honest with me and that he’s still has mix feelings towards my sexual orientation. “And anything we do, should be done in privacy. Like no sex in the common areas.” I added.
“Kissing?” Carter asked.
“I’m cool with it, if you are. Same with cuddling up watching a movie, and or holding hands.”
“I can handle that,” he nodded and stopped pacing.
“Yup. Anything more than that, we go to our rooms.”
“And if we’re a little loud?”
“It’s why I have an iPhone and headphones. I can just listen to music or go for a run.”
“And me?” I looked over to the chair, but gave him a grin. He looked a little taken back, like he hadn’t thought about it. “I’ll just do the same, minus the whole walking part.”
“Sorry,” he winced.
“Don’t be,” I said. “One last thing,” I looked him right in his eyes, making sure he understood that this was my one deal breaker, “I can take some jesting and teasing, if its in all good and fun. Just as long as I can tease back,” I laughed and he smiled. “If we’re going to do this, I don’t want to live with the past on our backs. This is a new start for both of us, Carter, lets not dwell on any guilt or regret.”
Forgive and Forget?”
“Forget, for now. I’ll work on the forgiving if you try and forgive yourself.” He nodded, and bit his lip. I knew that was going to be harder for him to do. “Roommates first, and we’ll build up to friends, how does that sound.”
“It sounds good to me, and Jamie, I promise I won’t make fun of you. Well, not in that way.”
I held my hand out, “Then roommates, Carter?”
“Roommates, Jamie.” He walked over to shake my hand and we spent the rest of the day watching movies and laughing.
“OH COME ON!” One of Carter’s “friends” yelled at the television. There was about five of us sitting around, watching the game. It had been about a year since I moved in with Carter, and so far everything’s been going really good.
Carter and I fast became friends, he was easy to get along with surprisingly. He went to work every weekday, went to school at night, and came home too tired to even move. On the weekends he studied like crazy, or had a few of his friends over. He claims he doesn’t have any friends, but every weekend there’s the same three guys over.
I started my quest for a job as soon as I moved in and found one at a market down the street. The owner’s son was also in a wheelchair and didn’t have a problem with hiring me. So, I did what I could there for minimum wage.
My parents and I didn’t speak much. I called them to tell them I was moving in the city, but didn’t tell them with who. My parents understood, and thought that the change would be the best for me. They even sent me a large sum of money, saying it belonged to me. I guess my grandpa put money in a trust for all of his grandkids after his uncle had died, so now I had more money than I knew what to do with.
So here I was sitting in the living room with three really hot soldiers and Carter enjoying a Sunday football game. The Sunset Valley Llamas were killing the Bridgeport Vampires by fourteen. Everyone in the room seemed to be rooting for Bridgeport. I didn’t care either way; I’ve never cared about sports, I just loved sitting around ogling all the guys in my living room.
After the game and the guys left, Carter cleaned up and I tried to help. “You got some cool friends, man,” I said, making small talk.
“They’re alright. Saw you checking Stephen out.”
“Was not!” I turned bright red.
Carter turned around and smiled, “Jamie, I could have filled a cup you were drooling so much.” I continued to turn redder. So embarrassing. He went back to cooking and I high-tailed out of the kitchen, which made him laugh even harder. “I’ll get you a bib next time they’re over!”
“Don’t you dare!” I yelled as I rolled into my room. I could still hear his laughter, the jerk.
Carter really was coming around. He’d joke with me and made me feel comfortable. I knew he was trying to see past that I liked “dudes”, and somewhere in the year that I lived with him he found a comfortable place with it. It was his deal he had to get over, and I tried not to get offended if he said something that made me cringe. We were friends, I guess, if you could say that.
Still every time I looked in the mirror I saw that hateful word on my forehead. My therapist said its a form of PTSD, and that event will probably haunt me for the rest of my life, just like the accident.
One night when I was staring at my own reflection, Carter walked in. He saw that I had a pained look on my face and at the verge of tears. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” I said a little fast.
“Bullshit,” he walked in and stood behind me looking at me through the mirror. “Something’s wrong. I’ve lived with you for a year man, I know when something’s eating you alive.”
“Its the reflection I see. My therapist thinks it’ll help if I try seeing past what I see in my head. It’s nothing. Just trying to get over it.”
“What? What do you see?”
I looked up into his eyes through the mirror, and swallowed the lump. We never talked about our past, ever. We knew what happened, but we just didn’t want to bring back those hateful moments in our relationship. Yet, he wanted to know and he was willing to listen. So I swallowed down that lump and said it, “I see the word fag in big black letters on my forehead.”
I waited till it settled in and when it did he let out a little gasp. He turned me around and knelt down to look me in the face. I could tell he was holding it all in, but I could see the guilt and the pain. “How long has that been going on?”
“Since the day I came home and dad helped me wash it off.”
Carter released a tear, and I let out mine. “Jamie, I am so sorry I ever put you through that. I swear to you, that I will live my life to make it up to you. I was a stupid kid, with stupid issues and I took everything out on my best friend.”
“I know this.” I nodded and wiped my tears. “I don’t want you to feel guilty, Carter. We were both young and both of us made mistakes we can never take back.”
He put his hand on my arm, “How can I ever make it all up to you? The things I did, Jesus, Jamie, the things I did make me cringe now. Hell, If it hadn’t been for your dad pulling me off of you that day in school, who knows what I’d have done. I may have ended up with those three assholes in prison.”
“No,” I shook my head at him. If there was one thing I know, is that even if Carter had bullied me and he’d never been discovered, I knew he would never have risked someone’s life. “You wouldn’t have tried to kill me, no matter how mean or hurtful you were, you would have never tried that. I believe that you still would have been the one to pull me out of that burning car.”
Carter cried, it was all he could do – all we could do. He held onto my legs and cried in my lap, apologizing for everything he’d ever done. He made promises to be a better man, and to always be there for me. We ended up falling asleep crying there and at some point Carter had woken up and put me to bed. I woke – and after feeling disoriented and figuring out how I got to bed – I finally did something I needed to do, I forgave him. I let my heart forgive Carter, and after that night, for the first time in years, I slept without dreading nightmares of my best friend tormenting me.
The next day he walked in from a long rainy day of work and school. Monday was his longest day, where he came in almost close to ten at night. He had two classes at the college and work. “God, is today over yet?” he asked as he pulled off his soaked shirt and flung it on the floor.
I looked over from the chair I sat in at the counter, and I nearly swallowed my tongue. Carter was fit, like really fit. He went to get a soda and I watched his ass encased in his tight pants and I just couldn’t stop staring. He turned around and smiled at me, catching me in a near fog. “Stop,” he growled.
I shrugged, “Can’t help it, you have a nice ass.”
He started to act like a dog chasing his tail trying to check out his own ass, making me laugh. “I do?” he teased. He knew how hot he was. He grinned at me. “Thanks for the ego boost, man. You have no idea how much I needed that. There’s this girl at school that I’ve been trying to catch her eye. I mean she’s hot, smart, and god Jamie, she’s exactly what I would want in a woman.” He walked over to the couch and slumped down. I joined him and he waited till I was sitting next to him. “I finally got the courage to talk to her and flirt. She stormed off and told me to go to hell.”
“Why, what’d you say?”
“Honestly, I just said hi, and asked how she was doing in class.” He closed his eyes in frustration, “I really like her, Jamie. She’s so gorgeous and smart. Hell, I even listened to her joke with some friends and found myself laughing and smiling.”
“Huh, so why doesn’t she like you?”
“I don’t know!” he threw his hands up. “Carly, my friend and co-worker says it could be that I put off a bad-boy vibe. I thought girls were into that sort of thing.” He turned and looked at me, “Do I throw off a bad-boy kind of vibe?”
“Your asking me about the bad boy image you throw off?” I asked with a smirk. “Need I remind you, I know first hand what kind of bad-boy you are?”
“Ha ha, you know what I mean. I thought chicks dig that though. Maybe Sara just isn’t into it.” He slumped, “God, what I wouldn’t do to be with Sara Misha.”
I nearly choked, “Dude, did you just say Sara Misha?” He nodded, “As in, hot, blonde, gorgeous smile, and all-around amazing?”
“As in the same girl you tormented in high school, along with her gay best friend?”
Carter’s face, I had to say, went three shades of red. “Sh-sh-she went to school with us?”
“Uh, yeah. Dude, you are totally fucked. She wouldn’t speak to you if you were the last guy on earth.” Poor Carter, fell apart then. He looked as if someone punched him in the gut. “But it doesn’t mean we can’t try.”
He just looked like someone killed his dog.
“I mean it, Carter, we can try. First we need to clean up your look. Make you look less soldier-y and more like a respectable, good-looking, guy.”
“I thought I was hot in my cammies?”
“No, you are. It’s just we need to make her see you for who you are now and not who you were a few years ago.” He agreed with a nod, “So, first thing tomorrow after work we are going shopping!”
“Oh god,” he groaned. I laughed at him. “Why me!”
“Because, you love me, and you know it.”
“Do not,” he teased and leaned over to smack my leg, and I just shook my head. Sometimes I just love how people forget, hell even I forget sometimes.
“Oh come on you know you can hit harder than that.” I teased.
He laughed, hard. We ended up both laughing so hard it hurt. He got me in a headlock and tousled my hair, “Your such a fucking brat, you know that?”
“Yup.” I shook my head, “So after we get you ready, you are gonna take me to your school, right? I haven’t seen Sara since we graduated high school.”
“Sure. You get me ready for the ball, and I’ll take you to school with me.”
The next day when Carter and I were both off work we went everywhere looking for clothes. He hated clothes shopping, it was fun. He continuously kept complaining at everything I picked out for him. The funniest, however most annoying part of our trip was I ended up having to fend off this little twink who wouldn’t stop being handsy with him,
“Dude, he’s mine!” I said after the fifth pass he made to poor Carter.
“We’ll see,” he said in his way too high of voice. “Come find me when your done playing doctor.”
“Not likely,” Carter said to him. “I love my Jamie-bean.” He wrapped his arm around my shoulder, and I turned so red it wasn’t even funny.
“See, now get lost.” I said with a smile.
The twink left for a new hunt and I just rolled my eyes. God, some guys couldn’t get any gayer. “Can we now leave? This place is too gay for me.” Carter said standing up and grabbing the clothes he was buying.
“And me,” I grumbled. “Can’t believe that asshat.”
“Jealous?” he teased.
“Hell no. I’ve been over you for years. I just think that some guys are just way over the top that it’s not even funny. Now, did you try on that last pair of pants so we can get the hell out of this place?”
“Yup. Fit me perfectly. So, I got three new shirts and two pairs of pants. What did you get?”
“A date,” I smiled. “And two phone numbers.”
“Mr. Blonde over there, the red head at the cash register, and that handsome guy with the beard asked me out, and I said yes.”
“That leather daddy?”
I busted up laughing so hard, “Now how would you know what that is?”
“I’m straight, I ain’t stupid. I say too old, and no way in hell am I letting you date him.”
“He’s hot,” I said.
“He’s not the guy you need to involve yourself with, Jamie. That, and Parker would kill him and then me for letting you near him. No way. No how.” I laughed, it was great to see Carter like this sometimes. He shook his head, in bewilderment, “Damn, Jamie. Here I am trying to get one date, and here you are with three offers. How the hell did that happened?”
“Easy, I’m the guy in the chair that others want to take care of,” I quipped and waggled my eye brows, he exaggerated a shudder.
“Lets go, Mr. Popular. I got to get myself a date.”
Carter changed after paying for his clothes and took me over to his school. I was a little surprised that he took my advice and took off his sunglasses when we arrived at the school. I told him his eyes were sexy, and he needed to show them off. He walked me towards his class, and stopped me there. He introduced me to some of the guys, saying that we were out running errands and didn’t have time to take me home before class. His professor even bought the story and welcomed me.
Then Sara walked toward the door and froze when she saw me. Her high pitch squeal didn’t surprise me nor her jumping on my legs and hugging me. “What the hell are you doing here, Jamie-bean?”
“My roommate and I were running some errands and he needed to get to class. Didn’t know you were in his class though,” I lied. “When did you get back from Europe?”
“A few months ago. So, where’s your roommate? Gotta see this guy.”
I laughed, oh she was going to freak. I nodded my head over to the professor and Carter, “Over talking to your professor.”
She turned her head and gasped, standing up, “CARTER! You’re living with that asshole!” She wasn’t just upset, she was so loud that Carter and the professor peered over. Carter slumped and I could see he was hurting, like everything he thought of himself came out – it just wasn’t fair. He didn’t deserve this kind of treatment, just as I didn’t deserve the harsh treatment I received by him years ago. Sara didn’t stop. “Why in the world would you even consider that? Don’t you remember all the shit he did to you? He tormented you, Jamie.”
“He’s not like that, Sara. Sure we have a hell of a past, but he’s changed. You’re painting him with the same brush as everyone else. Am I the only one that see’s that he’s a different person. Respectable. Kind. Good-hearted.” I laughed a little, “I never thought I’d ever say that about him, but now thinking about it, he is. He’s one of the greatest guys I know.”
“He’s a grade-A asshole, and I don’t know what you are on, but someone really needs to save you from yourself.
Sara didn’t know about the suicide attempt, but that pissed me off. I turned my chair around and took off towards the truck, with a final “fuck you” towards my friend. She followed after five minutes and came up to me. “Jamie, just tell me why?”
“Why? Why what?”
“Why Carter? Out of all the fucking, arrogant SOB’s why, this one?”
“Why are you even judging him? He’s not the same guy we knew, Sara. Hell, we haven’t even seen him since he got kicked out of school after he threw a punch for me. FOR ME, Sara. Or are you forgetting that?”
“And aren’t you forgetting about being dragged into the bathroom and having your head shoved into toilets almost everyday? Or lets not forget about having to run from him and his goons between school and the bus, or he’ll take you out back and beat the ever living crap out of you.”
“That . . .” I paused, well shit. This is why I don’t like woman, you can’t ever argue with them and win. “That was . . . You know, he’s changed. Stop putting so much hate and guilt on him. He already gets that from his old man, and himself.”
“Good, at least someone keeps him in his place,” she said roughly.
“Yeah? You think he deserves to be told by his old man that he’s ashamed of him being his son? That his dad hasn’t talked to him since he graduated boot camp. That whenever his mom calls, she has to whisper on the phone. You really think he deserves that?”
“Frankly, after he put you in that cha-”
“HE DIDN’T PUT ME IN THIS CHAIR!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. “He saved my life. He ran towards a burning car and pulled me out of it without even thinking about his own safety. I should have died, and he saved me.” In that moment I noticed that Carter had been standing about ten feet from us, his tear streak face told me all I needed to know. He heard all of it. “Look, you can think what you want, all I know is you don’t deserve my respect or friendship, or his love. He fucking adores you, but you can’t see past his fourteen year old immature self. If you did, you’d see the change in all of us. Like the bitch you’ve become.” I rolled away to Carter, “You staying or you want to go home?”
“Home.” his voice sounded choked, like he was fighting everything he could from crying.
“Jamie,” Sara sighed, and tried to stop us.
“I’m sorry. okay?” She looked at Carter, “I can’t and won’t forgive you, but if it means losing someone close to me, I’ll at least hold my tongue. Just don’t expect us to be solid. And we’ll never be friends, but we can at least be civil.”
Carter nodded. I just shook my head, poor guy. He wanted more than civility; he wanted her. She walked away, reminding me to not be a stranger – whatever. There was no way I could be friends with her. Carter didn’t say anything until we got in the car. His whisper of “thank you,” nearly broke my heart.
As he drove off I finally spoke up. He needed something – anything to get him out of this funk. “Fuck her, Carter. You deserve someone that sees you for who you are today and not some stupid punk from high school.”
He nodded, “I’m going to drop this class.”
I shook my head, “Don’t. Don’t give her that power, Carter. Go to class, keep up your 4.0 average. Earn the respect of the other classmates. If she even has a once of a heart, she’ll see you’ve changed.”
“Won’t matter. You’re right. I don’t need her in my life. I need someone that will love me for me and not judge me.” Even as he said that, I knew his heart was breaking. He really cared for Sara.
The rest of the day we sat around playing video games at the house. He and I joked and pushed each other as we tried beating the other in the racing game we were playing. Around our third beer the door bell rang.
Carter was the one to answer as I climbed into my chair. “Jamie, its for you,” he said as he walked into the room followed by a couple with a baby.