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Failing Upward Ch. 11

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“You need to eat more,” Lynn said from across the table, slapping more potato salad on my plate. “You look like an Ethiopian poster child.”

“He is thinner than usual,” Alan agreed.

I stared down at my pale, scrawny legs drowning in Sid’s baggy old swim trunks. Fuck. What a boost to my self-esteem. I moved the chicken leg to the other side of my plate then picked it up, inspecting all sides.

“Almost as much meat on that leg as yours,” Alan cracked. Sid shot him a dirty look, and I flipped him the finger ala drumstick. Just when I thought he’d changed, Alan goes and proves himself a true horse’s ass.

I sighed. The drumstick looked tasty. Life experience told me, Lynn’s cooking was deceptive. I closed my eyes and bit a chuck off. I chewed and chewed and chewed. Damn, I’d never disappear. I finally swallowed. Jeez, must be a rubber chicken.

I racked my brain for a way to hide the pots and pans from Lynn. Maybe I’d eat more if Glenda or Sid did the cooking.

Sid sat at the end of the table next to me with Glenda on the other side of him, refilling his glass of lemonade. By the look of Glenda’s plate, she hadn’t eaten much either.

I quarantined the chicken to the corner of my plate and picked the celery out of the potato salad with my fork. Lifted the salad tentatively to my mouth. Not bad. I ate another fork-full.

“Like the salad?” Lynn asked. “Alan made it.”

Figures.

I scratched my bare chest and watched Sid suffering as he struggled to pry open his buttermilk biscuit. With a clang, he dropped his knife in frustration, leaning back in his chair.

I jumped. Something was moving up my leg. I lifted the tablecloth. Peeking under, I tugged the red and white gingham cloth back over my lap. Crap. I scraped my chair closer to the table. Up, up, up, Sid’s bare foot slithered. Now how could I enjoy the potato salad with him doing that?

I slumped down in my seat. The big goof was grinning down at his plate. God no, what does he think he’s doing?

Inching higher, yes, a little higher. There. I closed my eyes and moaned.

“Will you two stop?” Lynn asked. “This is positively pornographic.”

Glenda raised her right eyebrow, smiling.

“Go to your room if you’re gonna do that,” Alan said. “I’ve cut you both some slack after what you’ve both been through, but this is ruining my appetite.”

“I thought the chicken did that all by itself–” I said, choking as I bit down on a biscuit. I think I chipped my tooth.

Lynn’s eyes squinted evilly; she wound up. A chicken thigh flew across the table.

“Ouch,” I hollered, rubbing the side of my head.

“Honey, don’t–” Alan said, grabbing Lynn’s hand too late. Jeez, bopped in the nose with a biscuit.

“Stop,” Sid laughed. “You’ll ruin his looks.”

Lynn jumped up from the table.

“That does it. I’m not making dinner again,” she hissed.

“Promise?” I asked, nursing my nose.

She slammed a carton of milk on the counter.

“Honey– ah, dear?” Alan said, getting up from the table. “They’re just playing with you.”

Sid frantically shook his head, no-no-no-not-playing, behind Lynn’s back. He was mouthing the words, ‘Fire the cook.’ Alan ignored Sid while Glenda gave me a rye smile. She crooked her finger at me, and I bowed my head near hers. Loud enough for only Sid and me to hear, she said, “If I were you two, I’d make sandwiches and go out by the lake. It’s the only way you’re going to get a decent meal tonight.”

Sounded good. Let Sid make love to me in the sand, watching the sunset. Sid lips turned up devilishly over the rim of his glass, and my face grew hot thinking of it. Seems the only thing I thought of the last few days was Sid and what positions I could curl him into. That or how perfect the piano resonated. Maybe I should combine both and let Sid tune me up tonight and curl my body up into his.

Now that would improve my appetite.

Glenda whispered into Sid’s ear. Since he didn’t blush furiously, she wasn’t asking him about the picnic on the beach. Probably asking him about the damn serum again.

When Deal and I told Glenda I had the serum, she was relieved. I thought there’d be an argument. Deal’s was the only voice of dissention, arguing about timing and saying the plan was morally wrong. Finally I’d asked, did we have enough serum? And just how many injections would it take for Sid to cross over? Peter grudgingly said three to five.

I’d taken more than enough serum.

What bit at me like a pesky mosquito was Glenda’s reaction. I thought if anyone would be against Sid taking the serum, she would. I was wrong. The way she was solidly advocating Sid’s induction made me suspicious. That’s why I’d balked over the last few days; I didn’t want him to do this until I found out why it was so damn important to Glenda that Sid become like one of us. I’d asked her. Then I tested my psychic senses out on her to get a closer look– all I got from Glenda was that this was for the best.

Best? For whom?

Sid and I had a long talk this morning. His mind was casino şirketleri made up. He didn’t understand why I was having a problem with this decision– after all, isn’t this what I wanted? Hadn’t I taken the serum for him? What if Shackleton shows up over the edge of a dune? What if the Community finds us? All Sid’s arguments and scenarios made sense. He was right. It was going to happen; they’d find us. We didn’t have a choice. I know Sid feels I’ll be safer if he became immortal, but I told him not to do it for me. Do it to save himself.

Sid looked over at me. Yeah, that’s what he and Glenda were whispering about– I could tell by the guilty look on his face he’d told her our decision. Tonight he’d begin to become like her, like me.

I closed my eyes. Another mosquito bite– I couldn’t forget what Deal said before he left yesterday. If we did this, everything would change.

I started as Lynn snatched my plate away. Then she grabbed Sid’s. In a huff, she scraped everything down the sink.

“Do your own fucking dishes,” she yelled over the grinding jaws of the garbage disposal. She marched out of the kitchen and out on the deck.

Usually, I’d let her cool off, and she’d get over it. But her reaction wasn’t about our flambéing her culinary skills. Sid winked at me as I excused myself from the table.

I followed her out to the deck.

Her back was to me and she leaned against the railing. I could tell she was crying.

“I don’t understand any of this,” she said, wiping tears from her cheeks.

I hugged her close to me, cradling the back of her head as it shook with sobs.

“I’m sorry I threw that at you,” she said.

“No you’re not,” I laughed quietly. “But you’re sorry about things you don’t have any control over. I’m the one who should be telling you I’m sorry. You’re in danger because of me.”

“You don’t need to apologize for caring. If you didn’t care about your friends so much, Shackleton and that group– that Community– wouldn’t want to use us against you.”

She sniffed into my neck.

“You’re my best friend,” she said. “I’ve been so afraid for you. I can’t help but think of Karen. I don’t want to lose you, too. “

“I know.”

“And I feel like a jerk for being jealous. I mean, you used to confide in me. Call me up. Gossip. Now, you have Sid. I feel like a shit for being envious of your relationship with him. It’s not fair of me. I’ve been hoping you two would connect since– well, since forever.”

Jeez, I was the one who should feel like a shit. I should have known what this was all about.

“You want to go for a walk?” I asked.

She nodded. I waved at Sid to let him know we were going, and Lynn and I walked down the wooden steps to the beach.

“So,” I said, grabbing Lynn’s hand, “how is it between you and Alan?”

“I think I love him.”

I nodded.

“He said he loves me,” she said, tugging on my hand. “I know what you think of him; I used to think it myself, but he’s not the same. This whole ordeal has changed him. It’s changed us all.”

“Yeah, it has–” I hoped for Lynn’s sake she was right about Alan.

We reached the bottom and walked out to the beach. She stopped in front of me.

“I’m waiting–” she said, tapping her foot.

“Yeah, I’m in love,” I confessed. “I figured you’d already guessed that.”

“Of course, but I’d like to hear you tell me about it. Not every day your best friend finds their soul mate. Now share.”

“Well, gosh. This is embarrassing…”

I walked on ahead of her.

“Not as embarrassing as what you two were doing at the table?”

“You’ve got a point,” I said, giggling. “Where do I begin?”

We stopped, facing each other on the beach.

“He’s a great lover. Well, fantastic,” I confessed.

I could feel my face getting hot, and I began rubbing my cheeks– probably had those bright pink blotches.

“I should have listened to you a long time ago. I know you’re waiting for me to say it– ok, Lynn, I’ll say it– Yes, I’m gay. Jeez, you were right all along. And my life’s crazy. And I have a crazy man after me, but that’s ok because I have Sid, and he loves me. He really loves me. And I have a best friend, and she loves me, too. I’m really pretty fucking lucky. There are a lot of people in this world who don’t have anyone who loves them.”

“How are you, really?”

“I was confused. Now, I’m beginning to figure out all this immortal stuff.”

“Sid says you have nightmares–“

I shrugged my shoulders. She wasn’t buying it. I kicked sand into the water. So this walk and talk was Sid’s idea too? I missed that one. I thought it was about Lynn’s and my relationship.

“I don’t remember most,” I admitted. “I wish I didn’t remember others. I had them when I was there at the Community, too. Angela told me. She was a nurse. She was the one person there who was kind. Reminded me a lot of you–“

I sighed, throwing a pebble out. How far would it go? Lynn and I watched the splash in the distance.

“All the nightmares I remember casino firmaları involve Shackleton.”

There are some feelings and senses that linger. With me, it’ll always be my mom’s cinnamon rolls at Christmas, Sid’s vanilla candles and chicken casserole the first night he kissed me, and Shackleton’s putrid blood filling my mouth before I clawed his eyes out.

“You’re shaking– Wes?”

“I’m sorry Lynn. It’s hard to talk about it. When he put his hands on me, I saw into him. I can do that– see inside some people. God Lynn, I’m terrified just remembering what it was like having his slimy hands touching my skin. I didn’t know there could be anyone who was irredeemable on this earth, anyone who enjoys another’s pain. He’s evil.”

She squeezed my hand and kissed it.

“Wes, don’t ever be afraid to talk to me. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

She tugged my shirt.

“You need some new clothes.”

“Yes, mom.”

——————————

When we got back inside, I sat down and played the piano. Sid sat next to Lynn and I overheard him whisper, “thank you.” What a schemer.

I decided to repay him by crooning some of his favorite Frank Sinatra songs– I sucked at Frankie, but I knew Sid would pretend I was great. Then I called for requests. Alan had plenty. I played and sang until the pink evening sky called.

Sid and I packed a picnic basket of sandwiches, rye crackers and cheeses. Sid cut up a cucumber, and I found some seedless grapes. Glenda tossed in a bottle of wine. I ran upstairs for our towels. Sid dug out a blanket from an old chest.

Throwing the blanket around his neck, he called to me, “Aren’t you ready yet?” I clamored down our bedroom stairs. Glenda nodded with a slow smile as I ran past her to get the picnic basket off the counter. Waving goodnight to Lynn and Alan with my free hand, we stepped out the back door.

Screw the stairs– we ran down the dune full speed, sand flying behind us. Towels and blanket flapping behind Sid. I jogged down behind him, hauling the basket. When we reached the bottom, we bunny hopped up and down, giggling each time the sand squeaked. Just two kids on the beach.

Simple memories. Mom, Dad, Karen and I spending summers near Mears, Michigan. Climbing the dunes. I remembered how scary it was– standing at the top and looking down. Those dunes were so huge and steep, they looked bottomless to us. Karen and I swallowed our fear and ran. The sand squeaking under our feet with each step. And at the bottom, looking up and seeing Mom and Dad, so far away and small. Little miniature parents. Going up the dune burned our lungs and calves, but we’d forget the pain as soon as we go to the top and would run back down again.

I watched Sid jumping. He wasn’t worrying about Shackleton or the serum or me. He was living for now. Making our memories. Leave it to Lynn. I silently thanked her for helping me remember. As Sid and I let the waves chase our feet, I did feel untroubled, like a kid again, too.

I skipped at the edge of the water, kicking water at Sid. This place was made to help me forget and made to help me remember.

We jogged down the beach. From there, we climbed over two small dunes down to a hidden inlet where we could watch the sun sink under the water. Cozy and private with soft white sand and tufts of grass surrounding us, I spread the fuzzy red blanket. I could feel Sid’s eyes on me as I bent over so I wiggled my ass in the air.

“Come on,” he grinned, pinching me. Then he pulled me by the arm, hauling me to the inlet. Our feet sank in the wet sand, making footprints one inside the other.

“It’s not so cold over here,” he pointed. “Let’s swim.”

Sid drew me into the warmer water of the creek, where it spilled into the cold lake. He splashed me. It wasn’t that warm.

“Come on, let’s skinny dip,” he teased. “No one can see us back here.” He’d already kicked his trunks off and with precise aim, pitched them in the middle of our blanket oasis. I chuckled. Crazy bastard. I loved him so much.

This had possibilities. Must be one of Alan’s request songs, “Nightswimming,” put the idea in Sid’s head.

I stripped my baggy trunks off– flinging them wildly. Too bad my aim sucked; the suit stuck twelve feet in the air on a poplar branch.

He splashed me again, and yelling, “You’re climbin’ up there to get them down.”

“Oh, no I’m not,” I said. “This was your idea; you can climb the tree.”

“Oh yeah? Maybe I don’t want you to put them back on!”

Well, I didn’t want to– not right away, but it was too fucking cold not to put them back on sooner or later. And the water was chilly and the evening breeze off the lake, cool.

Sid shoved me square in the chest, sending me end over end into the shocking water. I sputtered and flailed. Grasping the sand under my feet with my toes, I stood up. Then I charged him like a fierce bull. No, maybe not a fierce bull– maybe wounded steer. Well, ok, maybe not a wounded steer, maybe an un-milked dairy cow.

He stepped to the güvenilir casino side and pushed me under. Again.

Mooo.

No fair.

As I came up for air, he was laughing. This time I was sly. I huddled down, head just sticking out of the water. Partly for warmth, and partly to take him off guard. I stayed where I was– bobbing up and down in a nice warm spot. I let him come to me. He dipped under to his neck. Slowly he waded nearer, the gentle current rippling behind him. Then he was toe to toe with me. As I felt his toes scrunch mine, I leaned in, kissing him open mouthed, then I took my left foot and tripped his legs out from under him.

Yes! I sank his battleship! Victory was mine.

For one second.

His arms wrapped around my legs and pulled me under with him.

Only this time I felt him hard against me.

We immerged mouths locked, my legs wrapped around his waist. This was the kind of mouth to mouth I could get used to…

Maybe he could sink his battleship– in me. I loosened my grasp around his neck and slid down.

“Look,” he whispered. “The sun–“

Aglow and touching the horizon, the sun was taking its last breaths of the day. Sid kissed the corner of my mouth.

“Let’s eat,” Sid suggested.

“But I’m not hungry for food.”

“Tough. You’re going to eat– you need to. Then I’ll eat you.”

“Ok!” I yelled, dashing out of the water and wrapping a towel around myself. “Hurry up!”

Sid knelt down on the other side of the basket, handing me a sandwich.

“Shit, we forgot cups,” he said, holding up the wine. He rummaged around in the basket, pulling out sliced cucumbers and cheese. “Nothing to open it with either.”

“Give it here.” I bit down on the cork, wiggling it back and forth with my teeth.

“God, what a talented mouth, watching you gives me ideas.”

I spat the cork out.

“I bet it does,” I said, taking a swig and passing it to Sid.

The cheese and crackers did look good. I began to munch on them, watching the sun and Sid. He looked cute, all scrunched down sitting on his heals carefully tearing the crust from his sandwich. He thoughtfully took a bite.

He smiled and crumbs stuck to his top lip.

“So you and Lynn had a nice talk?”

“Yes, thank you,” I said, biting into my tuna sandwich. Pretty good. Huge improvement over Lynn’s fried chicken.

“You two are both best buddies again?”

“Yeah, bestest buddies.”

He crunched on a cucumber slice, waiting for me to say something.

“I told her about us. And about my nightmares. She brought up Karen. I’ve been thinking about Karen all evening. I wish Shackleton never would have found us– never found my family. Then the nightmares would go away– the ones that wake me up, and the ones I can’t escape from.”

Sid sneezed and pulled his towel snug.

“You know how much I love you?” he said. “Nothing will change that.”

Sid passed the wine back to me. I leaned across Sid for more cheese. My head buzzed. Amazing, immortals can get drunk.

I smiled lazily at Sid as I gulped the last few drops of the wine. And Sid grabbed his swim trunks next to him, reaching into his pocket.

“I’m going to do it,” he said.

He popped the top off the syringe. Not the ending to the romantic evening I’d hoped for. Wine, cheese and tuna salad sandwiches. Sun dipping down below the horizon all amber and azure, sparkling on the waves. Sid jabbing the needle in his thigh.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. He recapped the syringe, dropping it in the basket, like it was left-over dinner. His eyes, now dark and dreamy, sucked me in.

I knew the feeling too– somewhere between need and despair. I felt it in the garden at Lancaster’s. I felt it in that white barren room at the Community. All your blood rocketing to one point. Helps when the object of your desire is near. The pain of the memory was so close and tight. I helped Sid with his pain. I climbed in his lap, his cock pulsing against my ass. He wiped the tears off my cheeks.

“Sid?”

He blinked at me, then suddenly his hands were everywhere– in my hair, down my chest.

His tongue found mine.

“It’s ok Sid. I’m here.”

With the weight of his body, he pushed me. I landed on my back in the sand. He fell on top of me, covering my mouth, hips and hands with his. I moaned as I felt his heat against mine. And then it began.

The sand underneath me became warmer, and the light pressure of his hand against my wrist merged with the thorns beneath, silently spilling what was him into me. I could taste it in my mouth, the roses. It was like before in the garden; all receded– only Sid before me mattered. Every nerve ending in me, efferent and afferent, connected to him. The sun reflecting off the lake bathed him in a preternatural radiance. My fingers marveled how beautiful his body was, how god like. My fingertips read him like Braille. Spiraling down his shoulders, to his chest then scrapping his taunt stomach muscles, I read every part of him. His chest glistened in a holy sheen above me. I raised my mouth to its beads, licking them like nectar and drinking the scent of his chest while I moved my hand up and down the hard length of him devoutly. Every hitch in his breath, every burn in his muscles, I felt inside myself.

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