My vision blurry with tears, it wasn't long before the element of surprise no longer worked in my favor.
My father took a hold of my wildly flailing arms, and his hand covered my entire face...smashing it and brutally pushing me down to the floor! "Are you out of your FUCKING mind???" He had mashed my face so hard that I felt a trickle of blood and snot running out of my nose. Some of it smeared across my upper lip. But the anger pushed me forward, and I started to get back up to my feet to have another go at him, but he yanked me up by my shirt...the crackle of the stretched and torn fabric filling the room, and his fist plugged me right in the stomach. It took all of the wind out of me at once, and I fell to my knees involuntarily, coughing and sputtering as I fought for oxygen. But even though I was down at the moment...I kept thinking...
Knives in the drawer...
Screwdrivers in the pantry...
A hammer, a tire iron, a bottle of bleach in the basement next to the washing machine.
My father walked over to totally wreck my speakers! I knew that was his plan. Just destroy the whole system so I wouldn't have it anymore. But the music kept my adrenaline pumping, and even while breathless and weak in the knees, I got up again and ran right at him, ducking my head and wrapping my arms around his waist as I fought to release YEARS of frustration and abuse all in a matter of minutes! I felt punches in my side and on my back, and I had NO plan as to what I was going to do next, but I held him tight and I didn't let go. I dug my feet into the carpet and dug my shoulder deep into his ribcage, pushing him back against my dresser and causing him to get angrier than I had ever SEEN him before! Ever! He shouted at me and I shouted back...object falling to the floor, posters being ripped down from the wall...had it not been for the music, the neighbors might have thought that some sort of deadly battle royale tournament was hitting its twelfth round!
My father began to hit me even harder, and as infuriated and amped up as I was...I just wasn't strong enough to fight him. I TRIED! God...I just...I really TRIED, you know? I just wasn't big enough. I was seconds away from being too sore to move, and as he tried to peel me away from his waist and pry my arms apart...I BIT him! I bit him hard, and deep! Right in the stomach!
"You little FAGGOT!!!" At this point, he grabbed a giant handful of my hair and gripped it so tight that I could feel strands of it being ripped right out of my scalp. "Let go! You hear me??? Let go!" As the agony intensified, I loosened my jaws, if for no other reason than to cry out in pain. And as soon as he had me standing upright, he spun me around and held me with my back up against his massive chest. One arm got a tight grip around my neck, his muscular forearm putting heavy pressure on my windpipe. And his other hand moved up to my face, pinching my nostrils closed and covering my mouth so I couldn't breathe. He held me there! I couldn't even gasp for air. I started to kick and spasm and tried desperately to pull his hand away, but his hold only constricted himself even more as I helplessly squirmed in his lethal embrace. "See??? Huh??? You wanna be a man, but you're NOT a man! Are ya??? What now, faggot? Huh? What happens now???" He tightened the hold on my throat until it almost made me sick! And I kicked and waved my hands in a state of unrestrained PANIC as I felt myself losing consciousness!
He could easily carry my weight if he had to. He could pick me up off of the floor and personally 'lynch' me right here in my bedroom if he saw fit. My throat hurt from trying to suck in air that just wasn't there. My body weak. My nose bleeding. A knot in my stomach from where I had been punched. I should have killed him when I had the chance. I should have taken the opportunity.
I'm sorry, Mom. I'm sorry, Brody. Adam. Sam. I wish I could have been a better son. A better buddy. A better boyfriend. So much that I wish I could have done. So much that I wish I could have had. But at least now I know...
...The pain will soon be over.
And then, I heard the doorbell ring...
It was faint. Distant. Just like everything else as my failing strength was being sapped from my limbs.
And then...he took his hand off of my nose and mouth and wiped it on the back of my shirt as he dropped me to the floor like a sack of garbage. Air had never tasted so sweet. I held my chest and stomach as I opened my mouth wide to suck in giant gulps of oxygen, all the while fighting the dizzy and nausea that came with being deprived of it for so long.
We were both breathing hard...but only one of us was standing.
"If I hear so much as creek in the floor boards coming from this room...I'm knocking you OUT! Do you hear me?" He said, and I saw him lift up his shirt to lightly touch the angry bite marks that I had left in his side. Dark red grooves that had broken the skin, but not by much. "Not a fucking word!" He told me, and walked out of my room, slamming the door shut behind him.
Why couldn't I beat him? Why? It's not FAIR! It's just not FAIR!!!
I held my stomach, sobbing softly to myself as I crawled on hands and knees to open my bedroom door a crack. What I heard...only seemed to terrify me more.
My father, after peering through the window at the back door, opened it up. "Yeah?"
That's when I specifically heard Brody's voice coming in from outside. "Is Zack home? We came to see if he could come out for a while."
Brody. My Brody. Why is he here? What is he doing? Who's 'we'?
"Zack's busy. He's got chores and homework." My dad said.
"Well, can we at least talk to him? Just for a few seconds, to tell him where we'll be if he finishes up?" I could hear a determination in Brody's voice. A sense of urgency. No! What is he doing? NO!!!
"I said, he's busy." My father grunted. "You boys will just have to come back tomorrow."
"Is there any reason why we can't just see him? Just for him to tell us that?" Was that Adam's voice? Was Adam there too?
I silently opened my door a bit further, and peeked my head out. Looking down the hall while still on my knees, I could see Brody, Adam, and Sam, all standing there together...looking up at my father and refusing to go away until they at least talked to me, face to face.
There was a long pause. I was too far away for me to see much, but a standoff had been made, and I began to tremble violently at the thought of Brody and my friends being hurt. My father can beat on me all he wants...just don't hurt my friends! Please...just leave them alone!
That's when I heard Adam say, "We're just going to the park. It's not that far away. My mom is going to make us a few snacks. We live just across the alley. I can have her come right over and 'talk' to you about it if you want."
Why are they standing up for me? What are they doing here? They'd be safe if it wasn't for me. They wouldn't be in danger if I was strong enough to fight for myself. God, this hurts. It hurts sooooo much....
My father looked them up and down for a moment, then he said, "Five minutes."
Brody asked, "Can we wait inside..."
But he cut him off and said, "No." Shutting the door in their faces. But they didn't leave that porch. They stood right there and they waited for me. God knows why. I quickly ducked my head back into my room as my father's footsteps led him right back to me. He barged in the door and I scampered back into the corner, curling myself up into a ball and awaiting more punishment. "What did you tell your friends?"
"I didn't tell them anything..." I sniffled.
"You're lying to me. What did you tell them?"
"I SWEAR! I swear, I didn't tell them anything...I told them to go home..."
"You told them to go home? Why? What did you say?" He barked. I just began sobbing uncontrollably and he reached down and roughly grabbed me by the chin, his fingers forcing the insides of my cheeks to grind up against my teeth. "You know what happens if any of this leaves this house. Don't you? DON'T YOU?" I nodded slightly, and he pushed my head back against the wall as he let me go. "Get up. And STOP crying! You're ALWAYS crying!!!" He pulled on my arm and brought me back up to my feet. "Clean yourself up, change your shirt, and get the fuck out of my sight. You hang out with your friends, you make nice with them, and then you get your little sissy ass right back here before your mother gets home, boy. You hear me? Otherwise...I might just take up this little wrestling match with her instead." He wiped his hands off and felt his side again. "The next time you bite me...I'm getting the pliers from the toolbox and I'm gonna take every last fucking tooth right out of your head! You hear me?"
I had to stand there for a moment. Frozen. Crying, sniffling, wishing I had come up with a better plan. Looking at the mess on my floor. Looking at the ripped posters on the wall. But Brody and the others were waiting. They'll only make him madder if they ring the doorbell or knock again.
I looked in my closet for a new shirt, and limped my way into the bathroom to blow my nose and wipe the smeared blood off of my face. My eyes were red, but there was nothing that I could do about that now. The task was to clean up as much as possible and swallow the pain before anybody saw it. My arms were so tired, my shoulders sore, as I lifted my shirt above my head and did a quick check in the mirror. I saw a bit of a dark spot in the center of my abdomen, just above my belly button. Nothing too bad though. I know bruises. If it had been worse, it would have turned black and blue by now. My neck was a little red, but I was hoping that it would go away soon. All in all, fo all the conflict and rumbling I did, I didn't have too much to worry about visibly. As long as I kept Sam from jumping on my back or anything...I should be fine.
A few more stray tears kept rolling down my cheeks, but I was quick to catch them and looked closely to fix my hair. A few last sniffles, a last minute check...done.
I put my shoes on. Breathe. Always remember to breathe.
Ok...and...as soon as I rubbed a sore spot on my shoulder one more time, I fixed my mask...and I was ready to go. No more tears, Zack. Brody's here. Time to get 'pretty' for my sweetheart. I cry too much anyway. I'm always crying. It didn't even hurt.
I went to the back door and opened it up. All three boys turned around with their eyes wide as I stepped outside. Did I miss something? No. I doubt I missed anything. I've done this enough times to know how to thoroughly check myself before going out.
"Hey guys!" I smiled, stepping out on to the porch. "What's up? What's going on?"
"Zack?" Brody asked, looking closely. "Are you ok?"
"What do you mean? Of course, I'm ok." I told him. Everybody was quiet and I said, "I had some homework to do, and my dad's a little cranky about me getting it done. But he said I could go out for a while if you..."
Before I could finish, Brody stepped closer to me and hugged me lovingly around the neck. Only seconds later, Adam and Sam joined in to hug me too. It was so comforting. So warm. The love and affection that I felt from having them truly worry about me...actually care about me...it caused a lump to form in my throat. I found it hard to swallow, the emotion taking me over, inch by inch...until it was almost too much for me to bear.
Just as my eyes began to mist over again, I giggled and broke away from their embrace. "What are you doing? Hehehe, I told ya, I'm fine!" I said. Then turned to Adam, "So, what's the plan? Where are we going?"
A little confused by my demeanor, Adam said, "We thought...we were just going to the park. Maybe by the lake or something...?"
"Cool! Well, what are we waiting for? Let's go! I've gotta get back kinda early, so..." I smiled and put on the bravest face that I could, but I knew that they weren't buying it. At least not yet. I was tired, that's all. Exhausted. I'll get better. We'll walk to the park, we'll give Sam some shit for being a twerp, I'll start laughing...and everything will be normal again.
As long as I have my Brody, I'm ok.
Brody is all that matters in this world. He makes life better. He makes joy possible. He's the only escape I'll ever have.
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