He lets me go. I push away from him and then open my eyes. I blink three times but it’s still not Isaac. “Brian?”
He doesn’t say anything and I move back into his arms. “What are you doing here?”
“You’re not supposed to leave without telling me.”
“Nuh uh, we changed the rules.”
“How did the walk home go?”
“I freaked out like five times, but I got home.”
He holds me tighter. “You think you can go back to sleep?”
I nod and he lies down next to me.
“Don’t you have to be at Babylon?”
~~~747~~~ I drive Justin to his tutors and realize I’m going to be getting in late. I haven’t showered yet and the office is better, but the executive bathroom is still a work in progress. At least Debbie doesn’t say anything about me being there in the mornings. I guess he’s gotten used to it. I end up passing out there at least twice a week. Sometimes he seems disappointed the next morning. I guess he’s hoping for a repeat of my last mistake but there’s no way I’m going to put him through that again. He deserves so much better.
~~~748~~~ I’ve had free time for almost a month. I’m studying for the GED and getting a little nervous about it. I’m also getting nervous about money. I’m going to address the job situation with Brian tonight, but there’s no point in doing it now. He hates conversations he can’t finish before he has to get back to work. He hates conversation in general sometimes. My stomach knots when I think about failing the test. It’s been a long time since I’ve been punished and I’m not sure I can still handle it. I wonder who will do it. Probably Brian.
~~~749~~~ He’s worried about something. I touch his arm before he gets out of the jeep. “We’ll talk tonight.”
He seems surprised but nods and runs inside. I go back to the office. At five I’m there. Vic’s gone to some pos group meeting and Debbie's working four to midnight. We’re alone. “Want to order or…”
“I’m not hungry.”
Fuck, something’s really wrong.
“I’m getting a job.”
“After you get your GED.”
“That’s in two weeks, if I pass.” His looks a little green.
He nods. “What … once I’m… what happens next?”
if I pass. Then what?”
~~~750~~~ He seems confused. “Then you and Lindsay put your portfolio together. Put in applications to some of the local art schools. We’ve talked about this. If you can’t get in, you do a little time at ACC.”
They’re all so sure I should go to college. Even a community college seems daunting and that wasn’t what I meant. “I mean, where will I live?”
“Justin, did Debbie say something? Do you not want to live here?”
“I just… I… I figured once I was done that part that I’d be on my own.”
He just stares at me.
~~~751~~~ Two months of intensive over-mothering and he still doesn’t get it. “Justin. Let’s say you got your very own one bedroom shithole.”
He nods, dejectedly.
“How often would Debbie come over with lemon bars and rigatoni?”
He seems to actually have to think about it. “At least twice a week.”
“And Emmett… you think he’s going to give up on your education in gay culture? You’ve only seen half of the Streisand oeuvre.”
“And do you really think I’m done with you once you pass a stupid test?”
That scared, green thing again.
If I pass.
~~~752~~~ He’s crooking his finger under my chin, so that I have to meet his eyes. He’s so close I can feel how warm he is through my own shirt. “What do you think happens if you fail?”
His eyes have that look I’ve come to recognize. The one that says that he knows and hates the answer already.
I shrug, hoping he’ll accept that. He doesn’t.
“You’ll punish me. You’ve spent so much money and time and…”
He’s hugging me tighter than Debbie does. My face is pressed against his chest and he’s just whispering over and over, “no.”
~~~753~~~ I’ll make sure Peter articulately reminds him, again, that neither I, nor anyone else, will physically punish him for anything. Right now I need to hold him and hope if he won’t feel me shaking. Fear and rage mix until they’re inseparable. He would let me. He wouldn’t leave or resist. He thinks that’s how it’s supposed to go. He’s scared of it, which is better than when I met him, but he still thinks that failing a test should result in… the mental images of his “punishments” flash and I just keep whispering the word “no” over and over.