The Wall and Goat Ch. 16bysexuscumlupus©
Chapter 16: Maxie
It had been exactly fifteen days since I had last seen Jesse. He had got up, and walked away. I had let my phone go dead that day, hadn't been bothered to charge it, or log on and check my email. I hadn't read, hadn't done homework, or for the most part attend school. I seemed to live in a world bound between the distance between home and Paul and Guy's house. I ate when I had to, when Paul force fed me baked goods from the oven or when Babaanne near-spoon fed me stew when I was home. I avoided mirrors. I knew in abstract that I didn't look good. I could see it in their eyes, but I didn't want to see the difference that misery made. I knew I was thinner, my jeans hung off my hips, and my muscles had lost their roundness. I was a sculpture made of wire and sticks. I felt empty.
At night Nuka kept me company, whether I was home or not. I couldn't stand to be alone in my own bedroom. Mum had given up that fight pretty quickly after Babaanne had put her foot down. So Nuka followed me everywhere I went. The husky was good company, he was non-judgemental (unlike my mother) and didn't talk (unlike Paul) and didn't keep trying to make me eat (unlike everyone) and he didn't try to comfort me with empty words when I cried. I cried into his thick fur, comforter and tissues all in one and Nuka merely lay on the bed, big and warm beside me, head resting over my shoulder as I cried and sobbed and wept until the tears seemed like they would never stop. Somehow they always did.
Everyone with the exception of Guy and Nuka told me that I would feel better in time. I felt no better. Every day hurt just as bad as the one before. I came home from Guy and Paul's that Monday, day fifteen since I had last seen Jesse to find music playing softly through the wall.
'Morning comes and you don't want to know me anymore/For a moment your eyes open and you know/All the things I ever wanted you to know...'
He was back.
There had been nothing but silence through the wall. Either he had been creeping about like a mouse in there or he hadn't been home at all. But now there was music playing. My music. I hadn't even tried to listen to my favourite band, every song reminded me of him. And now the boy I loved who ripped out a big chunk of my heart was playing my music as if nothing had happened. Numbness and pain were replaced by a flame hot liquid rage.
How dare he? How dare he come into my life and make everything perfect and amazing and then screw it up? In that moment all sort of crazy thoughts flashed through my mind. Jesse was a liar, nothing horrible had ever happened to him, he was just waiting to get his rocks off, would move on to greener pastures. He'd probably never even tried to kill himself, a sympathy ruse. He had come to my town and stolen my first kiss and used me. And now he was back, the other side of that wall playing my music, songs I had given him because I loved him. I had been holding my bag, my only pretence that school was even an option, and I hurled it at the wall.
"Maxie?" my name in his voice was like a knife going into my chest, at once sweet and perfect and painful as hell. I stood and stared at the wall. There was the distant slamming of a door, I felt the echo in my chest when I tried to breathe, my ribs creaking with the effort of staying upright. Then I felt the door open behind me, the rush of air bringing the soft sweet scent I recognised so well. There was a tug in my chest, and I wanted to let that line and hook settle there so badly, to complete the hole in my chest. I wanted to turn around and kiss him, I wanted the last two weeks not to have happened. But they had. The coil of rage wound up through my throat and down my arm and I turned even as I lined up the punch.
I hit Jesse Newall hard, right in the centre of his chest, the force enough to sting my knuckles and sent him slamming back into the wall and door. Ice blue eyes were wide and confused and in that moment of looking at him I saw how...how well he looked. Jesse was always perfectly turned out, today was no exception, clothes and hair crisp and clean.
"Get out." My voice was low and hard and I knew that the instant he left I was going to break down in tears, but I was damned if I was going to let him see that. "Get the fuck out of my house."
"Maxie," he started to get up, and I hated the way he said my name. he made it sound like he cared, "Maxie listen..."
"No!" I pushed all the anger I had to the front and I slammed into him. Fists, face, blocked; our legs tangled, we fell to the floor; I rolled to get the upper hand, jabbed him under the ribs; my back pressed against the floor; Jesse's hands gripping my shoulders. I was crying, and that made me more angry, shouting things I couldn't even hear in my own ears. I was so furious with him. "You bastard! How could you do that to me? And come back like nothing is wrong," I tried to kick him and failed, "I hate you."
Jesse's slap didn't hurt, but it made me stop, speaking and struggling. The whole time, Jesse hadn't hit me, he had just fended me off.
"I'm seeing a therapist."
I had no idea what to do with that information. Half of me wanted to punch him again, the other half wanted to congratulate him on being such a good liar.
"I realised I shouldn't have left the second I got on the train, and then it was too late. I couldn't reach you by phone and I didn't know where you were. Babaanne wouldn't tell me." Jesse bit his lip and the action made me want to kiss him. I resisted. "I've been staying with Chaime and Alec. Alec was the one who got me in to see Dr Laydon." Jesse's eyes were full of tears, "Say something Maxie."
I got up, disentangling myself from him, and I collapsed onto my bed, head in hands. I could sort of see the missing chunk of myself hovering in the air, very slightly warped, there were going to be parts that didn't fit quite so well as they used to, but it would plug the hole well enough. I could choose to take it back. I wasn't sure.
"No." But Jesse was sort of smiling, "It's doesn't work like that. But I'm getting better."
"Without me." I dug my face into my hands, not wanting to look at Jesse. It was a shock to feel his weight sitting down beside me, an arm across my shoulders. It felt so good to have him close, but I didn't want to give in. If he broke my heart twice I wasn't sure I'd survive it.
"Alec told me I had to focus on getting better. I wasn't thinking very clearly and I thought that meant I couldn't have you." Jesse's fingers traced a spiral on my shoulder, "I'm so sorry Maxie, I screwed everything up."
I clenched and unclenched my fingers, not really focusing on anything. There was still music coming through the wall and I whispered along with words that had new meaning in my head. I was crying again.
"I never saw you drift away/The more we spin around, the less we move/I never saw your spirit break/I wish that I could be your journey's end/But you are only passing through..."
"Maxie..." Jesse's voice was soft and warm in my ear, his hand resting on the back of my neck, I loved the feel of his fingers in my hair, "I love you. I want more than anything for you to forgive me. I know I don't deserve it, but I want to be with you. To be your friend. When the truth is, I miss you so. I hate being without you."
"What happened to the hole in the wall?"
"Mum filled it when we were away. She wasn't too impressed that we'd 'breached the divide' or some such crap like that. I put it back." Jesse slid off the bed, and for a horrible moment I thought he was leaving. He knelt in front of me.
'I'm on my knees, I beg of you'
I remember the words in my head, the way I had mouthed them across the classroom what felt like a million years ago.
"Do you want me to back over the wall? We can talk."
"No." I had the satisfaction that for a moment Jesse looked really worried. There was the piece of me that was missing. I held it, took it back. It mostly fitted, there were a couple of raw edges here and there, nothing that time and talk and trust wouldn't be able to smooth down. I took a breath and it was like coming up for air having been underwater. "I'm not letting you go again. You can even run away now. I can keep up."
Jesse grinned, and the sun came out.
"Where you go, I go," he said, straightening up, bringing his face level with mine. The gap between our lips grew short, "Where you sleep, I sleep." I kissed him and he tasted like oranges and honey.
Jesse waited on my bed while I went for a slightly over due shower. I forced myself to look in the mirror. Thinner, haggard, I'd cried so much it looked like I'd been punched twice. My eyes were hollow, but they burned. I got in under the hot water and looked down at myself. Jesse was in my bedroom, telling me he loved me, wanting to explain, and I did not want him to go away again. I remember what had happened the last time I was in the shower and I was seized by the desire to run back to him, to check he hadn't vanished again.
"Jes?" He had to have been listening for me because I heard him slip into the bathroom about a half second later.
"Maxie? Are you OK?"
"Yeah," I stuck my head our around the shower curtain to see him standing there, looking worried, "Sorry, I panicked."
"I'll wait." There was a clink as he sat on the lid of the toilet.
I imagined I could hear our music through the wall, over the rushing water, words with no frame of reference filled my ears, drowning out the terrible thudding of my pulse. 'take it back, don't let it die/cause I still do depend on you/don't say those words, you wrung me through' and Jesse was right there, so close that I could reach out and touch him, but now I wasn't sure if I was ready. I wanted him, so badly that the pressure of hot water on my erection was nearly painful, but in one of the little gaps left when I had inexpertly tried to re-fit my heart was labelled 'trust' and I wasn't sure yet.
I wanted to relax in the shower, but I could practically hear Jesse breathing, tapping his feet and fingers and waiting for me. I swallowed and put my face under the stream of the shower. 'Tear off your clothes and be born again/pretend that you're alone now and everything's gone/so break out of the cages/we were trying to fly... forget about shame/pretend that you're alone now...'
I grunted a reply, so not my usual eloquent self.
"I like it when you sing."
Ah crap. I had basically finished, so I switched off the shower and dragged the curtain back. Jesse stared and it took me a moment to put two and two together to realise that I was stark buck naked and dripping wet. Jesse looked at me like I was a god, and I felt part of those raw edges in my chest smooth over, just a little bit. I stepped out of the bath and grabbed a towel to wrap around my hips before getting another to scrub at my hair.
"Tell me about your therapy," I looked out from under the combination of hair and towel, "Are you allowed to talk about it?"
"Yes. Laydon says it's good for me. I came back because I missed you. I came back today because Laydon thought not having you was hampering my progress," I looked at him, puzzled, "About the first thing he said to me was that getting rid of the people I loved in order to get better was a shit-thick thing to do."
"I like this guy, he sounds smart." Jesse grinned and flicked my leg and it was almost a shock to realise that we were talking like normal people. No big drama, no awful secrets and big realisations. I stood in my bathroom, towelling off and chatting with my boyfriend like I hadn't just spend the last fifteen days moping about like a ghost. When had I gotten so needy? I turned on my heel and stalked out of the bathroom.
Jesse followed to find me at my computer, scrolling through music.
"I listened to this a lot when you were...gone." I clicked play and let the subtle beginning of the rock guitar start up, "What the fuck is it about you that makes me so completely helpless without you? I never used to be like this."
'I finished crying in the instant that you left/And I can't remember where or when or how/And I banished every memory you and I have ever made/But when you touch me like this/I just have to admit/That it's all coming back to me now'
I swayed on the spot, and then I felt Jesse's arms going around me.
"When was the last time you ate?"
We both decided that being there when our parents got home was not ideal, so I grabbed toast from the kitchen, and we headed to the café. Nuka was happy to see us. Paul greeted us both with stony features and directed us to the corner table, flipped the sign on the door to closed and locked it.
"Chaime called me. Either of you hits the other and you will seriously regret it. Understood?"
"Here Nuka! Let's go prep for tomorrow." And with that Paul lumbered down the stairs to the bakery part of the shop to make dough and things for the next day's trading, leaving us more or less alone.
We ate our way through the selection of salad things and sandwich fillings Paul had left out for us and Jesse talked. He liked therapy, getting better was hard, but it was working, slowly. He showed me his journal, obsessively neat and tidy, and I laughed through my bread and cheese when I read the first sentence.
My name is Jesse Newall and I'm gay.
"I can even read that one out loud now," Jesse's smile was proud as a kid winning the science fair, and he spoke as though reciting practiced lines, "I'm gay. I am in love with a boy called Maxie, who is beautiful. I was raped by a stranger and I will not let it hold me back from my future." A pause, "I'm still working on that last one."
I reached across the table and grabbed his hand, he gripped back just as hard.
I flipped through the journal, stopping every time I found my name in a sentence.
...Maxie who is beautiful... and sometimes in my dreams he has Maxie's face... Maxie read me this poem... I only know because of Maxie... I dreamt Maxie dead, even though I didn't kill him this time... Maxie is walking away from me, and I can't keep up... I taught Maxie to run, but he still won't eat right...
I was in there a lot. I exhaled loudly.
"I'm not sure I trust you yet y'know, but I can't stand to be without you. Fuck I swear you got in my head somehow and tided things up in there." I stood, still holding Jesse's hand, "I want to meet your shrink-therapist guy, but right now I am so fucking tired. Come with me?"
"To the end of the earth."
We told Paul we were leaving and he and Nuka walked back with us to the house. Screw parents and family and their concerns. If I was going to trust Jesse again I had to be with him, now more than ever. Guy embraced Jesse like a long lost brother, Paul was still a little unsure. I knew he was worried for me when he held me back when Jesse went to change out of his shoes and leave his bag in my room.
"Maxie are you sure you know what you're doing?"
"Not really." I gave Paul a half hug, "But I have an idea. I love him Paul."
"Hell I could have told you that kiddo. You guys are meant to be together the way Alec and Chaime are. No one gets a happy beginning without a fight you know."
I went upstairs with my heart full of butterflies and crickets jumping around like crazy. Was I nervous? Hell yes. I was about to ask Jesse to spend the night with me and not run off in the morning.
He was sitting on the edge of my bed, shoes and socks in a neat pile on his side. His was the right side, where he spent the nights on the other side of the wall. That wall wasn't there now. My heart filled my ears with the rushing of my blood, and I was thankful that I found it hard to blush obviously. Jesse stood, crossed the space between us, his hands hot on my arms, fingers running over my skin. We were shirtless in moments. I pressed myself into him, his ice blue eyes level with my own, our foreheads together.
Jesse smiled, I smiled back. The air was getting wet and warm between us and his erection pressed against my own. I kissed him, and it was absolutely as it should have been. I loved him, a little bit of me hated him.
But damn he was a good goat.