The Wall and Goat Ch. 03bysexuscumlupus©
Ch3 – Maxie
"I hate him!"
I threw my bag at the corner table where Toman and Mina were sitting it the nearly deserted Toast. It was Monday, four o'clock, just after school and I was wound up enough to kill something. Luckily before that could happen Nuka knocked me to the lino floor. I wrestled good-naturedly with the husky while he tried to lick me to death until Paul hauled him off me and offered me a hand up.
"Hey there little boy," Paul dropped an arm over my shoulder, "Who you mad at?"
I smiled half heartedly. I liked Paul. He ran an awesome café in Toast and it was such a good place to hang out. His dog was awesome and he himself was so easy to get along with. The fact that he was gay and in a happy, stable, settled relationship was simply a great bonus. I loved having him as a role model. And friend who could buy us drinks, not that he ever did.
"His new neighbour is driving him nuts." Toman chipped in, "Hello to you too Maxie. Thanks for trying to hit me in the face with your books."
"Sorry," I scuffed my boot against the floor and played distractedly with Nuka's huge ears, "I'm just really angry."
Paul pushed me towards the counter and the twins left their table to join us. The big man started up the barrister machine and began to measure out three hot chocolates.
"Come on then. Tell me everything."
In the eight days since Jesse Newall had moved into the house next door my life had gone from generally careful and directionless to a total pile up. He'd come along and invaded my life and then made me hate him. It was obvious that the most beautiful boy I'd ever met hated me, his behaviour to that point was inexcusable. Eight days later he had still only said twelve words to me. Every time he saw me he scowled. I saw him at lunch chatting and joking with the sports boys, but if he caught sight of me his eyes went black and hard as flint.
Avoiding him wasn't an option, and after the second time he barged past me in the art room, knocking my bag to the floor, I moved across the room away from the workspace I had built up around myself to somewhere where he would have to detour to hit me. But as bad as school was, being constantly snubbed in a way that I had never known, being home was worse.
I sat in my room trying to read, or get to grips with maths, my least favourite subject and I would hear him. I would hear him pacing his room, hear his music on low (I refused to turn mine on, fearful of another thump to the wall), hear him talking to himself though I could never figure out what he was saying. His presence the other side of the wall distracted me beyond all reason. I started sitting downstairs to do my homework, reading in the lounge while my grandmother crocheted. Toman and Mina would come around after school and we'd spend some time mucking about in the back garden. His window was next to mine, and I was sure I saw him watching us.
But at night...good god at night it was awful. I would swear the wall was warmer with his presence, except that wasn't possible. I woke in the night to hear him breathing, and falling asleep was damn near impossible, knowing he was there. He would toss and turn in bed, bits of him hitting the wall, the thud and scrape of his arm sliding down the plaster board. He talked in his sleep, half cries and unformed words that I couldn't understand. Sounds that ripped me from my own shallow dreams and made me wonder what was going on in his mind.
And then on Sunday night he said my name.
I was woken by a noise I wasn't conscious to hear, but as I looked at the glowing digits of my bedside clock, registering the green 3:18, I heard another thump from Jesse's side of the wall. I rubbed my eyes, knowing sleep would allude me for a little while anyway and then I heard it.
"Ugh, no ,Max.."
I stared at the wall, as though starting at painted plaster board was going to help. Max could be anyone, a friend from back home. I rested my head softly against the wall and what I heard made my jump so hard I fell out of bed with a crash.
"No! Maxie don't!"
I stood up on shaky legs and stared at the wall. I didn't want to touch the bed, as though it was somehow electric, it was as if going back over there would burn me. I grabbed the blue woven throw that had fallen from my bed as wrapped it around my shoulders as I stared at the wall. There were no more noises, but I didn't feel much like going back over there. I dragged myself down to the lounge and collapsed on the sofa for the remainder of my largely sleepless night.
"Morning Maxie," The scent of breakfast and frying things woke me along with the soft voice of my grandmother, "And why are we sleeping on the sofa?"
"Bad dreams," I sat up, gathering my blanket about me, "What's for breakfast?"
"Your mother is making pancakes, so very American of her." Grandmother wrinkled her nose. She was Turkish and the idea of a sweet breakfast was alien to her. It was from her that I got my dark skin and from her late husband from who I received my big fisherman's shoulders, "You want feta with yours Küçük?"
I grinned. My grandmother never called me by my given name, the same as I never used hers, not since she had come to live with us after grandfather had died. I'd been seven and I couldn't imagine not having her around. My Turkish was a alright, though grandmother said my accent was still awful. The 'ç' in Turkish was a 'ch' sound, so my nickname of 'kid' sounded like 'kuchuk'.
"Please Babaanne,"I got up, yawning, and wrapped the blanket around my hips, "I'll go have a quick shower."
"Oh my boy," Grandmother ruffled my hair, "You look so much like your grandfather these days, only taller. Go get dressed, little ones would faint at the sight of you."
A quick breakfast of feta and olive oil pancakes later, a weird breakfast even for someone half Mediterranean, I was dressed and out the house. Jesse was already gone, and I was determined to talk to him. Was he dreaming about me? Was he simply trying to wind me up? I doubted this latter idea. Those words did not sound deliberate, they didn't sound planned. And they haunted me.
"No! Maxie don't!"
A desperate whisper, an involuntary cry. Jesse sounded like he'd been under attack.
We had assembly that morning and try as I might I couldn't catch his gaze, he seemed to be a lot more interested in his shoes than usual today. Afterwards he managed to vanish in the general rush and I didn't see him all morning. At lunch I expected to find him with his group of sports fans, but he was sitting toying with a slice of pizza at an empty table in cafeteria.
He looked up, blue eyes hopeful, and then he registered that it was me, and his expression snapped closed again, he looked away.
"How are you getting on?"
A grunt. Wow, so polite and communicative. I looked up to see Ian and Pete and couple of others heading over with their trays.
"Look, come speak to me yeah? What were you dreaming about last night?"
Jesse's eyes snapped up to me angrily.
"You said my name. Last night."
As Ian and Pete drew close Jesse leapt to his feet. I am not used to feeling small or short, but I felt both of those things as Jesse towered over me, his eyes filled with a rage that I could not hope to explain.
"You can say whatever you like gay-boy," His voice was hard and mean, and loud, "But it doesn't mean I give a shit about you."
I stood there, numb, focusing on not bursting into tears.
I blinked at him, stupidly, twice, then turned and ran.
"He said your name in his sleep?" Mina looked flabbergasted, Paul and Toman just looked shocked.
"Yeah." I sighed, poking the foam on the top of my now-ambient chocolate with a straw, "And he hates me."
"No one could hate you Maxie," Paul smiled, "If Nuka loves you, you must be good."
"Thanks. What the heck am I going to do?"
"Do nothing," Toman was halfway through a giant chocolate brownie, "Just ignore him."
Happily, Mina slapped her twin upside the head for his inanity.
"You're such a prat Toman. Have you even been listening?" She rubbed my shoulder, "I'd say come and stay with us, but you know what our parents are like about sleepovers on school nights. Sorry buddy."
Soon after that the twins left, leaving Paul and I alone in the café. Monday was always a slow day until about five thirty when all the office workers came in looking for coffee, cake and sandwiches before home.
"What should I do?"
The big man pondered my question in silence, wiping coffee cups and lining them up along the counter. The drip filter plinked gently, creating a hot steamy brewing aroma in the shop.
"Call him out on it. Talk to him, somewhere that he can't try and humiliate you. Go to his house. He feels something for you, good or bad."
"I can't get him out of my head. It's like he's living in there."
"Ah, young love." I glared at Paul, and he threw up his hand in defence, "Or hate. Whatever you want."
I scowled, but I said my goodbyes as the first few office professionals arrived for their evening caffeine fix. I would go to Jesse's house and talk to him. I had to. For a start I couldn't sleep on the sofa again, it hurt my back something chronic.
I made plans to go over there after dinner, ostensibly to borrow Jesse's English notes. We were on Shakespeare, not my favourite. I was silent over dinner. Mum had done minted lamb with Turkish wild rice the way my grandmother had taught her years ago when she and my father had first been dating, but I did the dishes without complaining.
"Küçük my little one. Something is troubling you." My grandmother stood at my elbow, so small in comparison to me, "And I think it had something to do with this yeni çocuk, this new boy, next door?"
"He hates me Babaanne," I exhaled loudly, "And I don't know why."
Grandmother made a little clucking noise with her tongue and put her hand under my chin. I looked into eyes that were just like mine, toffee coloured, and filled with love.
"Love and hate are two horns on the same goat little one." She shook me gently, "You'll see."
"Hi. Mrs Newall? I'm Maxie, I live next door."
"Well hello there, nice to meet you Maxie," Mrs Newall was a small woman, her frizzy hair giving her much needed extra height, "Are you here for Jesse?"
"Yeah, I hoping to go over some English notes with him."
"Sure." Mrs Newall turned from me to shout up the stairs, "Jesse! Your friend is here. You go on up," she said to me, "I'll bring you guys some cokes."
As I ascended the stairs it became clear that this had been a rushed sort of move. Things had been unpacked but nothing had been redecorated, although the paint tins in the hallway showed that this was on the to-do list. The house was the mirror image of mine, just as I had remembered, and Jesse, called by his mother's voice, stood in his bedroom doorway and stared at me.
"What," he started, his voice tight and low, "are you doing here?"
"I came to talk to you."
He scowled, his mood black.
"I thought I made it fairly obvious that I wanted nothing to do with you," a pause, "Faggot."
I pushed him and he stumbled back into his room. He was lucky I hadn't just hauled off and hit him, angry as I felt. As it was I had enough of my wits about me to walk calmly into his room. He was such a neat freak, books seemingly ordered by the colour of the spine to make a rainbow along his bookshelves, his bed hospital-corner crisp. Apart from the stack of homework on the little desk it was so not the room of a teenage boy.
"Do not call me that." I heard the growl in my voice ad forced myself to calm down and breathe normally, "I never did anything to you."
He didn't get a chance to reply as his mother appeared with two cokes and a plate of biscuits, fussing like mother's the world over.
"You know you're the first friend Jesse's had over. It was so nice to see the town in the snow. I suppose it doesn't snow that often here? Well we're from London so we don't really get a lot of snow in the city. Are you in some of Jes's classes then? How lovely."
"Mum!" Jesse hissed, his voice tight.
"Oh sorry. I'll let you two get back to your chat. Sorry sweetie."
"Mum..." Jesse groaned. Teenage embarrassment at parents is also universal. Mrs Newall gave us a totally pointless little wave and departed. Any brightness in Jesse features fled and I felt my ribs struck with harmonics at the tightness in his features.
"What do you want?" Jesse asked, not looking directly at me, going to stand by the window which looked out over our moonlit gardens.
"I just wanted to talk. I hear you at night sometimes. Last night you said my name. You sounded like you were in pain."
"Your bed is the other side of That Wall isn't it?" I could hear the capital letters in his voice, the way he said That Wall like most people would say Evil Bastard.
"Yes." I turned from staring at his own crisply made bed to look at his back. Even from behind, his shoulders hunched uncomfortably, Jesse Newall was still the most beautiful person I had ever seen. His body was long and lean under his fitted sweater, his coloured tapered jeans clung to his legs, and the shape of his butt did inspiring things to my anatomy.
"Well you don't have to worry about me, alright? Get out of my room gay boy."
I couldn't help it and I couldn't stop myself. It was one insult too far. I didn't put up with this even from the most crass and idiotic of all the school's morons. So I Hauled off and hit him, hard, in the shoulder with enough force to make him stumble against the windowsill. He spun around fast and pushed me. The sports thing was obviously no joke, because he had muscles in that taut frame of his and he pushed me back hard enough to make me back away until my calves hit his bed. And he kept coming. I blocked a punch with my arm, caught his other fist with the last three fingers of my left hand which hurt like hell fire and made me yelp. It was as his knuckles grazed my cheekbone that I realised he was speaking, nearly shouting, but voice tight with rage and pain.
"How dare you come here and remind me of him? I hate you, get out of my head. Stop haunting me."
His words were as bad as his fists, only more confusing and I struggled in his grip, having fallen back against our shared wall. I saw his fist swing back, failed to dodge, and the thumb that made my skull crack, a gunshot in my head, set my ears ringing.
And then he kissed me.
As though I could get more confused no sooner was the blow over than his fists were balled in the front of my jumper, tears streaming down his face and his lips were planted over mine. My brain froze, lust hot-wired itself through my system, driving electricity up and down my spine. He broke the kiss, wide eyed, wet-mouthed and staring at me, an inch away. Then I hit him. The angle was bad, but I got him in the jaw and sent him sprawling across the floor. And then I ran from the house.
It was late and dark by the time I arrived at Toast. I was damp, cold, inadequately dressed for a three mile dash across town in the misty January night. The café should have been closed by all rights, but there was a back light on and I thumped on the door until the shape of Paul's husband appeared in the gloom. Guy recognised me easily enough and took no timein unlatching the many locks of the door to let me in.
"Oh little bit you're freezing! Paul! Come quick, it's Maxie." Guy wrapped an arm around me and began to rub my arms as my teeth set to chattering, my jumper soaked through with misty rain. Paul appeared from the back room and gave a bark of shock and surprise.
"Maxie! Dear god boy, you'll catch your death of cold!" Paul pulled off his big fluffy jumper as he came towards us, then pulled my own sodden woollen covering over my unresisting arms and head. His jumper was soft and warm on my skin, his body heat ceasing my shivers.
Guy broke away and started boiling milk for hot chocolate. Paul turned on the lights over the service bar and both men stood stock still staring at my face.
"Maxie?" Paul's voice was measured and careful, "You wanna tell us what happened to you?"
I squeaked and bolted for the bathroom. The three mile trek had given my body enough time to react to my fight with Jesse. There was an angry dark bruise on my jaw, and a better, much darker patch over my left cheek bone, the lower half of my eyelid slightly swollen. I had avoided looking at my hand, and while I found I could move those fingers it hurt like being stepped on by an elephant in Cuban heels. The fingers and part of my palm were a mess of bruises, the muscles sprained. I wasn't going to be doing any work with that hand for a while.
There was a whining at the bathroom door and when I opened it a wet black nose appeared, followed by my favourite blue eyes. I knelt and hugged Nuka, sobbing into his fur.
"You ready to talk yet?" Paul offered me a hand and pulled me up carefully, "Hot chocolate for the cold, ice for the eye, and the hand. No arguing."
A few minutes later I was sat at the bar with Paul as Guy fussed around the shop closing up and cleaning around us.
"He kissed me."
"What? I thought he beat you up?"
"He did. Then he kissed me. Then I punched him."
"Good," Guy interjected, earning him a stern look from his husband.
"Not that I don't want you to defend yourself," Paul said, "Why did he kiss you?"
"I have no idea." I used my good hand to hold my steaming hot chocolate to my lips, "I went round to ask him why he was so angry at me, and about the talking in his sleep thing. He managed to call me a faggot and a gay boy in the space of two minutes so I pushed him."
Paul shook his head sadly and played with Nuka's ears.
"Not quite what I had in mind. Come on, I'll drive you home." He let go of the husky and fetched his keys, "Are you alright to finish up here Sweets?"
"Sure Babe's," Guy kissed his husband on the cheek and I blushed and I turned away from their obvious affection, half jealous, half embarrassed, "Take him home. See you back at the house."
That night I lay in bed and stared at the ceiling, my sprained fingers bandaged and lying on top of the covers. Mum had insisted on visiting the emergency room. Jesse, beautiful, hateful, angry Jesse, had stolen my first kiss. It was not how I had pictured such a romantic moment happening.
In my dreams I would meet a nice guy, maybe a little older than me. We would have loads in common, like all the same music and books. We would go out to art galleries and parties, dance the night away. Then one lovely sunny afternoon we would be walking in town and he would turn to me, catch my jaw, whisper sweet lovely things to me and we would kiss. It would be perfect, magical, special. It would not involve a boy who hated me and a fight that left me with bruises and sprained fingers.
I lay in bed that night and made sure not to touch the wall.