This is the first chapter of a book I actually finished a while back, that I'm still not sure what to do about. Since it's in for heavy editing, I thought I might as well throw it to the wolves for feedback as I go. (And yes, it is distantly related to the one-shot I have up, I didn't simply run out of names.)
"Do you think I'm crazy? Because crazy people take pills, right?" Henry said with a challenging look in his eyes.
"I don't think you're crazy," Trey said. The lie slipped from his lips easily. He'd said the same line so often to his mother. The thing was, sure, they were crazy. Bat shit crazy, both of them, but they were happier when you told them that they weren't. And that was all that really counted in the end.
Trey always had the feeling people wouldn't understand if he told them straight out, "hell yeah, you're crazy, but I love you anyway." It sounded too much like a joke.
"I don't like the pills," Henry said, moving his breakfast around on his plate without eating it. He hadn't been eating much lately at all, but Trey figured things would get better next month, when the storm season ended. "And since I'm not crazy, it shouldn't be a problem that I'm not taking them." He almost glared at the white pills that Trey had put next to his plate.
If Henry was going to be this mature about it, maybe next time Trey would color them and say they were fruit drops. He took a deep breath. "What about the panic attacks?"
"I can handle them." His boyfriend stood up and started clearing the table, signaling breakfast, and this conversation, to be over.
Trey watched his boyfriend walk into the kitchen. Henry was still wearing his light blue pajamas, his blond hair tousled and unkempt. The image suggested that Henry had been asleep last night. Trey knew better. "I don't want to scrap your remains off the ground in front of a ten story building," he called into the kitchen.
"Fine!" Henry shot back. "I promise I'll hang myself if I get the urge."
"That's not funny." But today was Anniversary Day, and he'd let it pass. Ten years ago to the day, hurricane Jennifer had brought tragedy upon their city. Some of the inhabitants still weren't over it – like his boyfriend.
Trey got up and collected his things. Cell phone, car keys, jacket. He had to drive out and pick his siblings up before going to the graveyard. "I'm about ready to leave," he said then, finding his boyfriend in the kitchen. They didn't have a lot of money, and so their apartment wasn't very large. With both of them in it, the room was crowded.
"Have fun," Henry said, gray eyes not looking up from the dishes in the sink.
"Will you be okay?"
"I'll be just fine. Will you be with that car?"
"The car is running perfectly fine," Trey said.
"I'm more worried about the way you're running it."
"I'll see you later," Trey said, deciding not to comment on that. He hesitated for a second, wondering whether his boyfriend wanted a kiss goodbye, but he was giving off don't-touch-me vibes, so Trey just turned around and left. Maybe later.
Though probably not.
The sun was a real sadist with the way she was shining down extra hard on the cemetery that day. Never mind that it was fall and still cold in spite of the bright blue sky overhead.
The weather did nothing for his siblings' moods either. The twins, Livy and Conner, had turned into teenagers this year and were behaving according to age – like real brats.
"Can we go home yet?" Livy whined after they'd made their way through the crowd to her father's grave and she'd dumped her bundle of flowers unceremoniously.
"Try to be a little more respectful." Trey wasn't sure about afterlife stuff, but if their father was still floating around invisibly in the air above them somewhere, he should be pretty disappointed.
Livy only rolled her eyes in response. "The guy's dead. They're all dead."
"He was a great man," Trey said, giving his sister a stern look. It had been much easier when she'd been a little child and he could simply threaten to send her to bed without a story.
"You know what he is?" Conner spoke up. It was the first time he said anything since coming to the graveside. "Dead and rotten, that's what he is."
"Alright, fine," Trey said. "I'm taking you straight back to Aunt K."
Both of them groaned in unison. "C'mon, man, you can't do that," Conner said. Originally he'd promised to let them run free in the city for a while.
"I can and I will," Trey said, whacking his little brother lightly over the head. "Unless you pay some respect to our old man." The twin's father had only been Trey's step father, but since he'd never known the guy who'd actually sired him, it was all the same to him.
"Make me," Conner said, and with that, he bounded off, running between the crowds of mourners. Trey started after him. His brother kicked over several candles in his wake until he made it to the other side of the graveyard. Shouting profanities, Trey followed him out the gate, nearly knocking over an old lady.
"Excuse me," he mumbled before racing on. The second's distraction was all that was needed to make him forget that there was a street in front of the cemetery, and he was running right onto it.
Conner had already crossed safely when the screeching of tires surprised Trey more than the hood of the car that sent him sprawling to the rough asphalt of the street.
Suddenly, he didn't have to run after his brother anymore. When he blinked his eyes open again, the little bastard was leaning over him. "Fuck, Trey, are you alright?"
Was he? "I'm going to kill you." His voice worked alright. Mentally he checked his other body parts; everything seemed to be functioning. He'd been lucky, really lucky. His head hurt, and so did his back, but that was it. Slowly sitting up, he thanked his lucky stars, and the good luck troll he kept in his pocket at all times – a keepsake from his late step-father.
The sound of a car door opening and closing made Trey look up. He'd been hit by a bright red Honda Civic that gleamed in the sun. Trey shielded his eyes to look at the driver. Probably some middle-aged money bag who'd want to yell at him about safety.
He definitely hadn't expected the man to be as hot as his ride. Good looking and wealthy. Lucky bastard. The dark haired man approached him with a look that said he'd much rather kill Trey than help him up, but he extended his hand all the same. "I assume you're unhurt?"
Trey took his hand- his grip was firm- and let himself be pulled up. Now that they were eye to eye, he estimated the other man to be about his age. "I'm fine," he said shortly, dropping his hand. Cars were honking aggressively and the three of them made their way to the side of the road.
The taller man's eyes ran him over once, from head to toe. Maybe he was only checking for injuries, but it didn't feel that way.
"Do you make a habit of running into traffic?" He could just as well have asked whether he was a suicidal idiot.
"Usually he gets his kicks from climbing skyscrapers," Conner piped in. Trey glared at him. You wait 'til we're home.
"I see," the stranger said without looking at Conner once.
"I'm sorry," Trey said. "My brother," he glanced at Conner to make sure everyone knew who he was talking about, "was a little upset and made me chase after him. It won't happen again."
"I guess it's a bad day for all of us," the other man said, and some of the hardness disappeared from his gaze. "My name is Denzel." He smiled as if it were natural to go from stone cold to friendly.
"Nice to meet you, Trey." Denzel pulled a card out of his pocket and handed it to him. It had only his phone number written on it. What, did he just have those ready to pass out to random strangers? "I'd love to make up for that little accident some time when you're free."
"Uh… I'll… call," Trey said.
No way, you handsome creep.
"I have to go back and look for my sister," Trey excused himself, grabbed Conner by the arm before he could run again. With a half-smile to the stranger, he went off.
"Dude," Conner said. "That guy is totally into you."
"Shut it, idiot, I have a boyfriend."
Denzel climbed back into his car and got it back on the road. He couldn't be losing any more time than he already had. It had been a stupid idea to go out to the graveyard at all. Even on their ten year anniversary, the dead still wouldn't talk, after all.
All he'd gotten out of the trip was an idiotic young man looking to die under his wheels. He hadn't had the time yet to do a thorough check, but it seemed like the car was fine, at least.
The guy had looked interesting. Most of Trey's appearance was average to boring, light brown hair, brown eyes, simple clothes… It were the scars that had drawn Denzel's attention. Since they were right on his face, it had been hard not to look. A fine line that ran from the bridge of his nose up to his left eyebrow, and one adorning his right cheek as if something long and sharp had scratched him.
If they met again, he'd have to ask the story behind that.
For now though, he had to drive out of the city and up to his parent's estate. His mother would pee her expensive undergarments if he were any later than he already was. Stressing over the stupid sponsor's party tonight, the date seemed to have completely slipped his parents' minds.
As if they didn't have one of those stupid parties every other week.
His mother came tottering towards him as soon as he set foot into the entrance hall of the mansion. Her high-heels clacked over the polished floor and she was fanning herself in near hysterics.
"Denzel! Darling! Are you still not dressed?"
He suppressed the childish need to roll his eyes at her and tell her that he did not yet know the magic trick for instant clothes-changing. "I'm wearing clothes, mom, and they're perfectly fine."
"Don't you want to put on a your black suit, darling, you look so fine in your black suit. I had James iron it this morning especially—"
Take a deep breath, she means well - for the sponsors. "He's called Jason, not James, and I'm not going to change now, mom."
She looked at him as if unsure what to say, one hand playing with her pearl necklace. "Oh, but what will your father say?"
"— be most disappointed, I'm sure, but that's nothing new."
Denzel groaned inwardly, looking behind his mother to see his sister striding towards them. Of course she was wearing exactly what her parents had asked of her. Such a model child. Don't make me laugh. His usually strong willed sister appeared ridiculous to him in her current attire. Almost like an innocent maiden, with her almost black hair braided back and her olive skin stuffed into a cream white dress that revealed nothing.
"Wipe that grin off your face, Denny," she said in a low voice, coming to stand beside him. "With that attitude you are never going to win."
"I will never lose to you," he retorted. Ever since Jennifer had taken out the decided heir to their parents' company, his sister, Laurene, had decided it was hers. Denzel disagreed.
"Children! What are you talking about? Play nice now you two." She looked at them, pulled out a hand mirror from her purse and fiddled with her hair. Then she popped a gum into her mouth and chewed it for a few seconds.
Denzel forced a smile onto his face, knowing what was to come next. His mother breathed at him first, then at Laurene. "How's the smell? Is it fresh? I absolutely can't be anything but fresh for this event. You know, the sponsor's coming. We can't make a bad impression on the sponsors."
"It's fine, mother," Denzel said before his mom could continue her rant any longer.
"Your breath smells wonderful," Laurene said, knowing the drill as well as Denzel did.
"Of course it does," a deeper, masculine voice sounded from behind them. "It's our newest product after all, isn't it, darling?"
The temptation to roll his eyes - Denzel wouldn't be able to resist it for much longer. The old geezer never had anything else to talk about. One day on his headstone it would be written "and don't forget to try out our latest chewing gum - your breath will never be fresher!"
"Denzel, Laurene," he turned to them. "So pleased to have you both with me tonight." Their father eyed both of them scrutinizingly. "I assume you know how important tonight is for the company."
Of course they did, they'd only heard it six or seven times over the last week. Per day. Denzel and his sister nodded in unison. Their father let out a short cough. Was he catching a cold? Or maybe something worse? Denzel had hope.
"I'll be pleased to see you interacting with our sponsors, my dear children."
Of course. Translation? You'd better butter up to the people with the money if you want to keep your jobs. Joy.
Sometimes, Denzel hated his life. And he couldn't wait to go back to his apartment in the city. The one good thing he owned that neither his parents nor his sister knew about.