Saints Ch. 3
Achilles slept in the Fortress that night, waiting for Hosea to come back. For the first few hours, he couldn't sleep, wondering where he went and if he'd even come back. Achilles knew it wasn't his fault, wasn't even a fault situation, but he wanted to apologise to Hosea for giving the wrong impression. He knew he had let the boy down and had hurt him, but he couldn't understand why. When he had woken up, he couldn't remember how he had passed out. Everything after Hosea leaving came in little snippets of white hot rage. He looked down at his knuckles, already bruising and bleeding from punching the brick of the Fortress. Achilles hadn't had an episode in over a year, when he'd beat up the man who left Diana pregnant. Telling his counselor about the incident meant talking about Hosea, who was considered a runaway.
Achilles tried to cry but every time he tried, nothing came. He wanted to scream, wanted to throw things. He knew he couldn't and so he just sat there with his head in his hands, rocking slowly back and forth. When he fell asleep, he had flashbacks to his raging. It was like he saw himself how someone else would have, almost as if he was out of his body. He saw himself pounding on the walls and throwing hardback books every which way. He saw, for the first time, the person he became when he was angry. He understood for the first time in his life why his family was scared of him.
When he woke up, there was still no sign of Hosea. It was a Saturday which meant he didn't have to worry about going to school. He wouldn't have gone anyway. He spent his time thinking of Hosea and being kissed by him. Achilles knew it had been the wrong thing to do but he couldn't stop himself from thinking about it, from wanting more from the boy. He had wanted to kiss Hosea, Achilles realised, shame pooling in his gut. He couldn’t understand this thing they had but he had grown to really care for Hosea over their few short weeks together and for that moment that they had kissed, something inside Achilles finally felt calm.
Now, he was a mess. His body was in a state of disarray and his only focus was on what had happened to Hosea. Where had the boy gone? Would he come back, like he’d implied? Did he actually imply he would come back or had Achilles’ brain made that up? He didn’t know the answer to any of his questions and that made him even more frustrated. He fought the urge to throw himself into another episode just so he could forget what was going on in his mind, which was the only thing his rages were good for. Especially since he didn’t generally remember what happened afterward and therefore felt little regret for what had happened. The only time he truly was sorry for a rage was after accidentally kicking Laura in the face, splitting her lip and causing her to need sutures. He tried, unsuccessfully, to let his mind wander. He couldn’t stop thinking about Hosea.
Achilles slept most of the day. He had tried to read one of the books he remembered Diana buying for him but he was unsuccessful in keeping his focus. Every waking moment he thought about his friend and how he was sure his rejection would cost him their friendship. He didn’t want to think about this anymore and it was driving him mad to think about losing a new friend, no matter what the cause. Achilles tugged at his hair and curled up into a ball in the pile of blankets, one covering his head and another one draped over the rest of his body. He had hidden like this as a child in his bed, pressing his limbs into the mattress, convinced he could become invisible to his parents.
He wanted to become invisible. The irrational had completely taken him over and he was convinced on some level he could. Achilles knew he needed to refocus his thoughts but he didn’t want to. His breathing became heavy and laboured as he panicked. He had ruined everything, or at least that’s what he was telling himself. Achilles couldn’t breathe. He screamed again, and before he could realise what was happening he was shrugging off the blankets. They weren’t calming, they were constricting. He ran out of the building and stopped for a moment, unsure where to go. In connection to their small town, the Fortress was in the middle of an abandoned part of town.
He started running again, unsure where to go but knowing he had to leave. He had to get out of there. His legs were carrying him faster than he thought was possible, adrenaline fueling him. He took a turn into a neighbourhood, and looked around. He would run for a while and then try to get his bearings, suddenly becoming aware he was running for the siblings’ house. He kept going until he stopped in front of the little yellow house with a dark blue door. He knocked rapidly on the front door and panted, placing his hands on his knees as he doubled over.
Their mother opened the door and sighed when she saw Achilles. “Darling, you look much too thin, really. Come in and I’ll make you some food. You must be starving, your parents said you haven’t been home in a day.” She pulled him by the collar of his shirt into the house and dragged him to a kitchen table. “So tell me, who’s the girl?”
Achilles up until that point hadn’t been startled. He knew his parents would have been concerned with him not coming home and would probably have contacted Alice, but he couldn’t have brought himself to care. But Alice guessing there was someone new in his life? He was consistently shocked by her perception in his life.
“Girl?” he asked. “No, no girl. To be honest, Diana’s the only girl in my life other than Laura and we’re definitely just friends.”
She laughed. “I smell lies, Achilles. Now, you are a good boy. Tell me why you haven’t been coming over or now going home. This isn’t like you. So, who’s the girl that’s driving you to show up at my house at eight thirty at night?”
He looked outside and surely enough, the sun had since set and the house, if not for the lighting, would have been engulfed in darkness. He opened his mouth, trying to come up with an excuse but shut it after a breath. The entire time, Alice had been moving around the kitchen, and had now settled at the stove. Achilles tried to glance what she was cooking but she blocked his view. Finally, she spoke again.
“Your parents are worried about you. Normally, I’d insist that you go home, but frankly right now I don’t give a damn. You’re going to stay here tonight and tomorrow you’ll go home to your parents saying that you’ve been here. I’ll back you up because, frankly, I hate your parents; they called my daughter a whore. Which in all fairness she is, but it’s still not their place. Anyways.” She shook her head and took a breath. “And you’re going to tell me what’s been going on with you.”
Achilles sighed. Alice plated a grilled cheese and placed it in front of Achilles before sitting down in the chair next to him. “Okay. Well I met someone. They’re amazing, Alice. So full of life and energy and light and I don’t know what to do with it. I want to be their friend, obviously. But I know how they feel about me. And...I don't know what to do about it. Like I’ve never been with anyone before and in some ways I’m interested to know what it would be like. But the way I would feel for them, I feel like everyone would tell me it’s wrong. I just don’t know what to do about it.”
Alice took a sip of tea. “You like this girl, no? Then what does it matter if someone else wouldn’t approve of her? You are nearly a man, Achilles, and it’s about time you start making your own damn decisions like one. Who cares what your parents think, or what Laura thinks? Who cares what my son and daughter think of my decisions, I made them who they are and they have no right to judge me. Being alone as a mother is hard, Achilles, but I never lost hope. You shouldn’t either.” She paused, trying to articulate her words. “One day this world will stop being so judgemental. And people will just be who they want to be. No strings attached.”
“So what do you think I should do?”
She smiled. “When you see this girl again, just make it clear how you feel about her. Don’t hold back.”
Achilles loved Alice because she always had the right things to say. That night he slept in Adam’s room, Diana sneaking in to talk with the two after their mother had fallen asleep. He didn’t talk about Hosea or about what had happened, scared of their reactions to the boy they already seemed to despise. They talked about Achilles’ school and their combined lack of college plans. They all fell asleep in the early hours of the morning and Achilles went back to his house later, trying to stall off going home but knowing he had to.
“Where the hell have you been?” his father roared the second he walked in the door. “I called Alice, I called the church, I was so close to calling the police! What is this? Did you think this was funny? Tell me where you were!”
“I was with Alice and Faith and Adam. I told you I was going over after school. I never said when I was coming home,” Achilles replied calmly. He winced as he saw the hand coming toward his face and recoiled at the slap. He raised a hand to his cheek where a welt was forming. “Dad. Calm down, you’re drunk.”
“Why the hell does it matter? You’ve been gone for two days. We’ve been worried sick about you and Laura was in tears this morning at church.” Achilles rolled his eyes; Laura couldn’t have cared less what happened to him. “Is this a game to you?! Damn it, Achilles! You can’t just leave and not come back.”
“Okay dad. Look, it’s been a long weekend emotionally. I’m gonna go for a walk, okay?” He shifted uncomfortably, trying to look nervous. “I promise, I’ll be home before night this time.”
“Fine,” his father replied, slurring slightly. “Don’t get into any trouble. And when you get back, you’re grounded.”
“That’s fine.” Achilles sighed. “I’m sorry that you got worried. I promise, I’m not doing anything bad, dad. I’m just...things have been hard lately.”
“I know. But you need to get it together before college. Otherwise, how will you get into a good school? We’re putting you through school dime by dime and I don’t want you to tank that because you’re stressed.”
Achilles nodded and started backing into the door. “I’m gonna go. I’ll be back later.” The second he was out the door, Achilles started running. He only vaguely knew the way to the Fortress from his house and had gotten lost before but he made it without any wrong turns this time. He opened up the door, his heart racing, and spotted Hosea.
“Achilles…” Hosea stood to his feet as Achilles walked with purpose over to Hosea. “What’s going on?”
Achilles shook his head. “Don’t say anything.” He closed the gap between them and before Hosea knew what was going on, Achilles’ mouth was on his.
This post is user-contributed. Learn more.