Dark Hunger


Page 9



“Oh, Amy, I’m so glad to hear you say that,” she said, her voice cracking, “because that’s exactly how I feel. He’s so strong and he’s so smart, and if he just put his mind to it he could do anything. My goodness, he could—”

My brain, the half that was screaming, increased the volume by a factor of ten, which meant that the other half of my brain had to keep itself occupied to drown out the sound. I started tapping, absentmindedly, on the bench and found myself dulled, just slightly, by picking a tempo and sticking to it. Was the fact that Sam did the same thing part of why I chose this as a haven?

Sam. My shoulders loosened, Mom prattled on. I’d reached a point where, even though I didn’t listen to the words, I knew from the tone and from her pauses, exactly when to pretend to respond. I could fake it. Faking it, in fact, was what I was expected to do. If I told her the truth—and trust me, I had tried—she would explode on me. Not go cold and shut me out, though she was good at that too. I mean, she would just flat out explode.

The handful of times I’d tried it, I’d gotten a rage-filled mother that I never really expected was under the surface. Mom was a guidance counselor with a Master’s in Psychology and Counseling. So, to watch her turn into a fury—a red faced, screaming monster who accused me of not loving her or Evan when I had simply said, “Mom, he’s an addict, and he doesn’t want to get better yet”—well, that shuts you down. That shuts you down damn fast.

I’d tried once after that. Once. She’d cut me off, turning away, marching out of the room, and then stopping in the threshold and looking back with eyes that were a strange combination of red and black, and a face so cold you would think that she was an executioner. “I don’t ever want to hear you say another word about what your brother can’t do.”

And that was it.

The lesson? The truth matters less to some people than the veneer. Sitting here on the park bench, I nodded like an idiot, tapping my fingers and shining her on.

Sam

As Joe ran off I thought about what he’d just said. For the past four and a half years my entire life had been like walking along the blade of a razor; one slip and the results were deadly. That’s how this worked. When I stood up to my father I took complete control of my life. Except, what no one tells you, is that when you take complete control of yourself you assume complete responsibility, too.

Responsibility I don’t mind. What I didn’t really get was that, at barely eighteen, suddenly everything that I didn’t realize was going on behind the scenes when it came to the right stuff was all on me.

Dad might have been an asshole, but he gave me a place to live. Dad might have been a self-righteous prick, but I had a car to drive. And my father might have been a selfish alcoholic with a megalomaniacal streak in him as wide as the path of the Boston Marathon, but when you discover that you don’t even have a car to sleep in after a screaming match where you stand up for yourself, and you come to see that your friends’ parents are the only thing keeping you from living on the streets—that sense of freedom and responsibility loses its expansiveness and takes on the feeling of a stone around your neck.

Don’t get me wrong—I wouldn’t trade it, ever. I’d rather slip on the edge of that razor blade than go back. But it was times like this, where I was indebted to Trevor and Joe for all these years of help and support, either from them or their parents, where some part of me wavered and wished for more.

I couldn’t ask for two better friends, and now Joe was asking something of me; to take over his half of the rent, to give Trevor some stability. Offering to front the first six weeks was really kind. For a guy who been a supercilious jerk most of high school, Joe had turned out OK.

More than OK.

I turned away after his form was gone and I heard a familiar voice.

“Sure, Mom.” The lilt floated on the air and caught in my ear, echoing like a measure you play over and over again for the sake of something meditative.

Amy.

I turned my head to follow the sound, her words less distinct, the voice muffled. My body was frozen and on fire at the same time. Some part of me hardened—the obvious part—and then, others. What was she doing here? After last night at the bar where she disappeared, I didn’t know what to think. Now, I took strong strides in the direction of her voice, as if she were a homing signal.

I heard the word ‘Evan’. Her brother. A younger kid who tended to move in circles that I tried to avoid.

And then, the unmistakable tone in her words. I didn’t need to know what she was saying because I knew exactly what she was feeling from the way her voice sounded. She was speaking with a fake smile and gritted teeth—something was wrong in Wonderful Land.

Amy’s mom was a guidance counselor at her high school. Everybody in debate circles knew that. Now I heard her in casual conversation with her mom. A shrub—she was sitting on a park bench behind it, giving me a perfect opportunity to just watch.

Her legs were crossed at the ankles, and she was wearing the kind of pants that girls like to wear that were not quite long and not quite short, cutting off at the mid-calf, muscled legs flexing. Her sandals showed little painted toenails, bright red, and the idea that she had spent time making her toes look pretty made me smile. Muscled legs went up to thick thighs and something about the curve of skin and flesh against bone made parts of me even harder.

I could feel my body zoom from normal to lust in about three seconds as my eyes traveled up over the curve of her hips, her navy pants snug and perfect. My hands itched to touch that waist, to run my hand up her ribcage, to feel the pink cotton of her shirt, the way it rose and clung to the swell of her breasts. I could see it in my head, the two of us together. The memory of a heated embrace and fevered kissing drove its way home into me, one word echoing my head. More. More. More.

“That’s great, Mom. He’s absolutely fabulous,” I heard her say, and then, her head dipped down and she smiled, a genuine look that made a flush of envy and sadness run through me, mixed in with the rush of hunger for her.


I hadn’t had a normal conversation with my parents in four and a half years. What must it be like to have parents who care about you? Who are invested in you—not like Mr. and Mrs. Ross, who practically scrubbed Joe’s asshole with a brand new toothbrush every day, or like the Connors who tried to turn Trevor into something he wasn’t—but this? Being able to pick up a phone and talk to your mom for five minutes, ten minutes, and shoot the shit? Must be nice. Must be damn nice.

A flush of jealousy coursed through me at the same time Amy ran her fingers through that long, brown hair over her temple, behind her ears. And that was it. I was done. A goner.

But who the fuck was he?

“Liam!” Amy said, an enormous grin spreading across her face. A rush of uncontrolled adrenaline set my feet and hands on fire, quads screaming as I crouched behind the bush.

Amy was dating Liam? Liam the manwhore? The guy had slept with a groupie who had his name tattooed across the top half-moon of her waxed butthole.

Ask me how I know.

Liam uploaded a pic of it to Facebook and titled it “True Love.”

It was more like a selfie.

Amy

Joe had wandered away from Sam; I could see it as my mom settled into her monologue. I rolled my eyes at something she was saying, looked back, and then suddenly Sam was gone. Very weird. Whatever Mom’s words were, they just washed over me in a strange sort of ocean of repetition. It felt like we’d had the same conversation over, and over, and over. Everything was about Evan—about the hope that Evan would do better, about the despair that Evan wasn’t doing better.

The past four years of my life seemed like something out of Groundhog Day—at least when it came to my relationship with my mom. In the saddest moments, I felt sorry for myself, which is really laughable when you think about it. Here I was, a good, safe, loved woman from the Boston suburbs given everything that you could imagine we were supposed to have in this part of our world.

I’d gone to college with friends who had told me stories about physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional torture, at the hands of their parents. Some of my friends had five or six jobs just to scrape by, and a few talked about living in their cars during spring break when the dorms closed. It’d been a shocker to learn how many people were taking out thirty-, forty-, even fifty-thousand dollars a year in loans to get the right education, to get into the right job, and to climb.

I knew the drill—the same phrases and sentences came out of the mouths of all of my friends, and their parents, and of course, mine. But...to hear it in the context of people growing up with mentally ill moms or alcoholic dads, or of the occasional friend in school who already had a baby and was there on some special grant program, it made me realize that feeling bad because Mom was so fixated on the golden child—and it wasn’t me—was a form of indulgence. Kind of pathetic, really. Who was I to be upset when so many other people were suffering far worse than I was?

On the other hand, I had the right to my own emotions, whatever they might be, and suddenly everything going on with my mom on the phone disappeared in a pinprick when I realized that my life was intertwining, again, with Sam’s.

I hadn’t sought him out this time, had I? This was just me walking around Boston Common with my coffee, chatting away with my nattering mother, and boom! There he was.

I was deep in my thoughts when I heard my mom. “Amy. Amy? Amy, you there?” she asked.

“Yeah. Yeah, I am, Mom. I- I- I’m fine, I’m good. Yup,” I stumbled.

“OK, well, I gotta go, because Evan is on his way.”

“That’s fine, Mom. I understand.”

And then, standing right in front of me, was the one guy I least expected—and it wasn’t Sam.

“Hey, Mom, gotta go. Bye.” Click. I’d pay for that later, but that was OK because right now, standing right in front of me was a fine old friend. A giant piece of sex perched on flesh and bone.

“Liam!”

Was Boston Common suddenly hot guy central? How had I not known this? I licked my lips involuntarily—it wasn’t on purpose, but it made Liam grin.

“Amy,” he said. “Fancy meeting you here.”

“Are you looking for Joe and Sam?” I asked, and then bit back the words, wishing I could swallow them. Now Liam knew that I had seen Sam, and Sam might know that I had seen Sam.

“Not looking for them but if they’re around I’d...” he craned his neck, looking. It gave me a chance to take him in even more. He was just as fine as he’d been four and a half years ago—even better—filled out with broad shoulders, rippled with muscle in that way that cloth can form to and tell you everything you need to know about what someone looks like naked, and yet, still want to see them naked.

The feelings that Liam triggered in me were so different from the ones I had for Sam. There was nostalgia, there was a sense of gratitude, and then there was a full blown lust like a light switch being flipped on. Liam had that quality in him and I had to temper it with the knowledge that he would never feel the same way for me.

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