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Warning: This chapter gets emotional. Just remember, there’s a happy ending.
The next few nights that Brady stayed with him Ezra didn’t have a nightmare. Each night, Brady would lie beside him, his large body covering Ezra in a way that let him know he was safe.
Ezra didn’t think it was possible to feel happier. He felt clean and whole for the first time. One night while everyone was watching TV, Ezra felt so happy that he couldn’t do anything but cry. His parents sat in their respective recliners, his mother trying to learn to knit and his father shaking his head as the news anchor listed the world’s problems. Brady was beside him on the couch, holding his hand like it was a treasure.
Happy tears started to roll down his face. Ezra was very quiet, but Brady noticed and pulled him close. In Brady’s arms, Ezra felt completely safe, surrounded by warmth. He rested his head on Brady’s muscular chest and let Brady’s steady heartbeat comfort him to sleep.
Sometimes he would wake up when Brady was carrying him to bed, but he pretended to be sleeping still because the way Brady treated him made him feel special. Brady was always so gentle, and he made sure that all the blankets were covering Ezra and the red one was right next to his face so that if he woke up scared at any point that night he would have the unbelievably soft blanket to remind him of his parents’ love.
During the days, Ezra and Brady would stay in the house alone together. They watched movies and Brady taught Ezra how to play card games. Sometimes they just sat in silence, holding each other closely. Ezra liked that the most. He liked being kissed and being told he was loved. He liked Brady’s big hands moving over his body. Brady didn’t care about the scars and that made Ezra start to feel less insecure. His bad memories started to fade and even though the marks were still there and always would be, Ezra felt that he could accept that and didn’t hate himself anymore.
Brady knew that the long weekend had to end eventually, but it was still depressing to go to school that Monday. Brady couldn’t wait for Thanksgiving and Christmas, when they could spend more long days together, uninterrupted by the world outside.
Brady preferred to stay with the Lockheart family, but he felt like he was overstaying his welcome. After school that day he went home to test the waters. If he couldn’t move back in, he would at least take all of his stuff, including some of the cash he’d tucked away.
The house was empty when he got there and Brady started to walk around. He looked at the pictures on the walls. Most of them where of his mother and stepdad, and their daughter and son. There were a few of Brady as a child, and those were the ones he looked at. He saw one of him and his grandmother. He looked happy and he felt the echoes of the pain left by her death.
Growing up, Brady didn’t understand a lot of things. It wasn’t until he was older that he realized he was unwanted. His biological father wasn’t around, probably didn’t even know his name. His mother blamed him for the fact canlı bahis that she never finished college. The rest of his family was a bunch of judgmental Southerners who hated that they were associated with the shame of a fatherless child. He took the picture frame off the wall and slid the photo out. Grandma wasn’t like the others. She never blamed him for something he couldn’t help.
He knew he couldn’t stay there. If the Lockhearts couldn’t take him in, he would just live in his truck. He went to his room. It had been trashed, but Brady had half-way expected that. His clothes were piled in the middle of the room. Gingerly, he picked up one of the garments and it smelled like piss and beer. He dropped it back in the pile and looked under the bed. At least Steve hadn’t found this. Rolled up and tucked inside a sock was all the money Brady had to his name. Two hundred dollars he’d earned doing odd jobs for local ranchers was all he had to start his new life with.
When he tried to offer the money to Ezra’s parents, they wouldn’t accept it.
“You’ve already paid us back,” Mr. Lockheart said. “We know that you and Ezra are close.”
“And we’re OK with it,” Mrs. Lockheart added rapidly.
Brady nodded. “I just don’t want to be a burden on you guys.”
“You won’t be,” Mr. Lockheart said. “We aren’t rich, but we have enough. It won’t hurt us financially.”
“Brady, we would be glad to have you stay with us,” Mrs. Lockheart said, putting her hand on his shoulder.
It was Friday night and the Westmore Bulldogs were playing their district rivals, the Thornton Panthers. It was halfway through the second quarter and the coach was fuming. The Panthers had a 21-7 lead.
Finally the coach found his target. He stormed over to Paul and grabbed him by his shoulder pads. “What the hell, boy! You are slower than a damn goat in rubber boots! You’re out!”
Brady knew what came next. Paul was out of the game, Brady was in. They won. Brady was the big hero of the night. Paul was out for revenge.
Brady was an emotional wreck the whole weekend. What could he do? He had nothing to give Paul but money, and Paul didn’t need that. He was pretty sure that he was about to be thrust out of the closet, and his innocent angel would be the one hurt the most.
Ezra played a few chords on the piano and then wrote some music down. He played the melody, and then he erased it. He wanted to come up with a special song that he could play for Brady, so Brady would know just how much Ezra loved him.
The door to his practice room opened and Ezra smiled, but when he looked up it wasn’t Brady.
“Come on,” Paul said.
Ezra didn’t move. He felt frozen.
Paul grabbed his arm and pulled him from the room. Ezra tried to make Paul let go, but he wasn’t strong enough.
He kept willing himself to make a sound. Any kind of sound. But his voice wouldn’t work for him. He fought as hard as he could, trying to make noise, but no one heard. They were out of the band room now, out on the concrete and Ezra planted his heels. It didn’t stop Paul, but bahis siteleri it slowed him down a little. Ezra reached out for the support beams of the awning that covered the sidewalk and held on to it with all his strength.
Paul jerked Ezra away from the metal pole, which felt like Ezra’s arm was being ripped off, and hit him hard across the face. “You’re coming with me.”
Ezra felt his face growing hot. In his mind, he heard himself as a child saying, “Please don’t. Please don’t.” That was all he could think of. He still tried to fight back and Paul punched him in his stomach. He started to cry and Paul shoved him into the locker room.
“Told you he was a queer,” Paul said to the four other boys in the room. They were all much bigger than Ezra.
They circled around him and he tried one last time to run away, but one of them grabbed him and pushed him to the ground. He curled himself into a tight little ball.
“Hey…guys, I don’t know about this…” one of them said.
Ezra looked up at the speaker desperately.
“It’s fine,” Paul said. “It ain’t wrong if he wants it.”
“He doesn’t look so good…”
“He needs to learn his lesson. If you’re gonna be a pussy then leave. Otherwise, hold his head still.”
Ezra cried so hard he couldn’t breathe. The boy who had seemingly had a change of heart didn’t react, but one of the other boys did. Paul unzipped his pants and started to make himself hard. Within a minute he was pounding in and out of Ezra’s mouth.
Ezra gagged and choked. He couldn’t breathe. Between what Paul was doing and his crying he felt like he might pass out if he didn’t get air. Desperate, he bit down with all his might and Paul howled and started beating Ezra on the side of the head.
Ezra released and fell back, gasping for air like a drowning man.
Paul bellowed like an angry bull and started to kick Ezra. Then he ordered his friends to remove Ezra’s pants.
“Hold on, Paul. You never said anything about this. You can’t rape him.”
Paul turned and punched his friend. “Get the fuck out!”
The only chance Ezra had of a savior left the room, hands clutching at a bloody nose.
The boys started to tear at Ezra’s clothes. They ripped his shirt and saw the scars on his stomach and they laughed at him.
Ezra couldn’t make himself talk, it wouldn’t have helped if he could have, but in his mind he repeated Brady’s name like a prayer.
Brady was concerned that Ezra wasn’t waiting outside the band room like usual. He checked inside, but no sign of his angel. When he stepped back outside he saw his friend Trevor with blood dripping from his hands and face.
“What happened to you?” Brady asked.
“You have to go to the locker room,” Trevor said. “Man, its bad. Just get there.”
“What’s going on?”
“Paul…man, I don’t know if what he said was true, but…”
Before Trevor could finish his thought, Brady was running. He cursed because he couldn’t seem to go fast enough.
Finally, he got to the locker room and kicked the door to find Paul behind Ezra and three other bahis şirketleri guys bending him over one of the benches.
Rage blinded him and Brady pulled them away from him and started hitting Paul with all his strength. Nothing broke his focus until he heard sirens and the other boys fled.
Brady knelt beside Ezra, hot tears flooding his eyes.
“Did they…?” Brady couldn’t finish the question.
Ezra made a pathetic mewling sound, like a hurt kitten. He was naked and pale, curled up on the ground, with blood on his face and swelling bruises.
Brady watched as the paramedics rushed in. Both were male and Ezra cried out when they touched him. One checked Ezra’s vital signs while the other collected the discarded clothing and put it into a paper sack.
It was an endless stream of doctors and policemen and both of Ezra’s parents crying. Brady cried too when he had to tell what he’d seen.
He walked through waiting room of the ER, wondering if the people around him could tell his world was falling apart.It was cold and of course nature decided now was a good time for an awful thunderstorm.
Brady went to the bathroom and locked the door for some privacy. He stood with his hands gripping the sink and stared into the mirror. His lip had split at the side and he washed away the dried blood and pulled himself together, trying to stretch in a way that would relieve the pain in his lower back.
He left the bathroom when someone started knocking on the door. He started walking down halls until he ran across a little gift shop. He walked inside and grabbed a soda from the refrigerators in the back. As he went to the register, a display of stuffed animals caught his eye. There was a cartoonish plush tiger with big, sad eyes. He felt it and it was soft. He thought Ezra might like it, so he bought it and made his way back to Ezra’s room.
Mr. Lockheart stepped into the hallway. His eyes were rimmed in red behind his thick glasses as he somberly approached Brady.
“He was…our son was…” Mr. Lockheart couldn’t say it. Brady put a hand on Mr. Lockheart’s shoulder. “My wife and I need to visit a resource center. Will you sit with him?”
Brady nodded and followed Mr. Lockheart into a small room in a quiet corner of the ER.
Ezra looked small in the bed; an oversized hospital gown was falling off of one shoulder. Both of his parents kissed him several times and explained where they were going. Ezra just stared at the IV tube taped to his hand.
Reluctantly they left and Brady sat in a chair next to Ezra’s bed. He took the plush tiger out of the bag and set it on Ezra’s lap. Ezra didn’t react.
“Angel, I’m sorry,” Brady said. His voice broke, but he held the tears back. “I love you. Nothing will change that.”
Ezra reached for the stuffed animal and hugged it to his chest. He looked at Brady
Brady stood and put his arms around Ezra. “It’ll be alright,” Brady whispered. “I’m here. I love you.”
Ezra kissed his lips lightly and then nuzzled his face against Brady’s chest.
Brady lay beside Ezra in the hospital bed and stroked his hair, kissing his forehead, and whispering, “I love you.”
Ezra sighed. “I-I…lo-l-love…you. F-f-for-forever.” He clutched the material of Brady’s shirt in his small hand.
“Forever,” Brady repeated.
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