tagRomanceThe Weight of the World Ch. 01

The Weight of the World Ch. 01

bymdb913©

Chapter 1: Serenity

AUTHOR'S NOTE: The first two chapters of this story don't have any sex in them. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. It isn't until Chapter 3 that we get to the good stuff. If you can wait that long, then I promise I'll do everything in my power to make it worth it. If you're not that patient, thanks for stopping by. Just know that the sex IS coming. When is a mystery to you and me both.

Oh, one other thing: sometimes, in the narrative, I say "I", referring to me, the person telling the story. No, this is not a first-person story. Yes, I understand that's unconventional. No, I don't give a shit. I like it that way. I don't do it that much, so if you can ignore it, more power to you. If you can't ignore it then, in the immortal words of Thomas Jefferson, "Tough titties."

=====================

Twenty-one.

Such a random number to convey the most dramatic change in a person's life. Three sevens. Seven threes. Forty-two halves. It's almost as if they just pulled a two-digit number out of the clear blue sky and said, "You're an adult when you hit THAT number."

Twenty-one.

On September 13, Caleb's world would change forever, simply because he turned 21. Of course, he didn't care. Why the hell would he? It's not like he had anybody to share the milestone with. Hell, up until that point, he never even thought about having a drink--he didn't care. Besides, what fun is it to get drunk on your 21st birthday when you're doing it all by yourself? Caleb didn't have any friends to whoop and holler with. He never did. Caleb didn't have a woman in his life to share this "wondrous" occasion with. He never did. His entire life had been a lonely mess. Sure, he had his family, but they can only give him so much happiness. He loved them very much, but he wanted more.

Well, didn't he deserve it? I mean, Goddamn, here was one of the nicest guys you're ever going to meet! Here was a guy who held doors open for people for no reason! Here was a guy who gave to charity and good causes, out of the goodness of his heart! Here was a guy who paid his taxes and flossed! Not to mention the fact that he was, at heart, a romantic who didn't care about partying or reckless, promiscuous sex. All he wanted was to be loved, and to love back. He wanted to find the love of his life and make her just feel safe in his arms. Doesn't a man as sweet and gentle as that deserve happiness?

Of course he didn't deserve it! I mean, Goddamn, here was a guy who was 330 pounds! Here was a guy who, by two inches, wasn't even six feet tall! Here was a guy who was so quiet and shy, you wouldn't even notice he was around if it wasn't for his disgusting girth! He knows his place! He's fat, he's ugly--how does that question even pop into your mind? "Deserves happiness"--you're sick!

Well, what else was Caleb supposed to think? His peers never taught him anything else. All they did to him was insult him and make horrible assumptions. "So what if he's nice? He's got those gigantic man-tits, so let's make fun of him!" "Yeah, he's sweet and all, but look at me--I'm beautiful and small and dainty. What would I want with him?" "Yeah, he's shy, and that's cute and everything but, nah, he's not my type. Now, that hunk over there with the washboard abs--now, HE'S my type!"

Caleb gave up pretty damn immediately. By the age of 17, when he had graduated high school, he had stopped trying and had just quit. Seventeen, damn you!! Most people aren't even done with puberty by that age, and this guy had already given up on even getting a CHANCE! Is that fair? Not one date. Not one acknowledgement. How can someone so caring go all the way through high school without Date #1? Worse yet, how can he reach his 21st birthday without even so much as a friend to celebrate it with, much less a girlfriend? A female acquaintance? A fuck buddy? SOMEONE?

He didn't deserve his virginity. He hated it. He didn't want to be innocent anymore. But through all his advances, high school and beyond, nobody ever once gave him a chance (with himself as his largest detractor), and he was too proud and too law-abiding to get a hooker or something. After a while, he didn't want to just have sex. He wanted to feel loved. On more than one occasion, he just figured that he'd better get used to the loneliness, only to forget and get his hopes up all over again.

Caleb dreaded Tuesday, September 12. He had his birthday off (thankfully) and the rest of the week off after that, so if anyone was going to wish him "Happy Birthday", they were going to do it on this day. He went to work as the front desk clerk at the nearby motel and, mercifully, he was the only one there that day, save the housekeeping staff, and he hadn't told any of them about the 'joyous' occasion. He was able to do his job without worry and left before his afternoon replacement could say anything that wasn't work-related.

When he got home, he did the same thing he did every night: nothing. Went online a bit, watched a little TV, and then went to bed.

Note that I said "went to bed" and not "went to SLEEP".

Hours passed. 10:00, 10:30, 11:00, 11:30. Tossing and turning and shifting and rolling--something nagged at Caleb. He couldn't shake it.

He needed a drink.

* * * * *

At 11:49--no, no, make that 11:50--he arrived at the Tall Tales Pub. He sat at the bar and scanned the room, which was virtually empty.

"What'll it be?"

Caleb turned to the gruff man behind the bar who just got his attention.

"Uhm," Caleb hesitated. "Well, you'll have to wait ten minutes, but what would you suggest to the first-timer?"

"ID."

Caleb pulled out his wallet and extracted his identification card, showing it to the barkeep. The 44-year-old 'tender did the quick math, chuckled a bit, then tossed the wallet back to him.

"Cutting things kind of close, eh?" the bartender asked smartly.

"Yeah, well." Caleb put the wallet back into his pocket absent-mindedly. "So, what would it be? Beer?"

"Well, it takes a while to get used to beer," the keeper stated. "I'll start you off light."

The barkeeper reached above him, pulled a small glass off the rack, and set it down in front of Caleb, then turned and pulled a bottle of Smirnoff Ice out of the lineup, opened the bottle and poured some out for the intrepid young man. He left the bottle beside the glass. Caleb was about to pull his wallet back out, but the bartender waved it off.

"Twenty-first birthday," he said. "Your money's no good here."

"Thanks," Caleb responded as he looked at his drink. He doesn't seem to want to drink it immediately, opting instead to just stare at it for a minute. He didn't get it. Something about this just seemed kind of pointless and inane. "Do I really need to drink this to be any more of a man?" His entire life, he'd been treated like less of a person. It's not like drinking this one glass of vodka was going to automatically promote him. There had to be another way.

Sex? So what if he never had sex? There are a lot of 21-year-old virgins out there, aren't there? Hell, people have lived long, fulfilling lives without having sex!

Right?

Still, his thirst seemed magically quenched without downing the alcohol. "Thanks," he said to the barkeeper before pushing the full glass away and walking out, feeling indifferent.

Caleb walked to his car. How pathetic was he? No friends, no girl, and hell, he won't even have a damn DRINK, and he's the legal age!!! "What the hell is the matter with me?" He needed a drink, but he wouldn't take one. He needed a girl, but he wouldn't take one. He needed to be happy, but every time he grabbed the brass ring, it slipped out of his fingers. Of all the things he so desperately needed, there was only one that, at that moment in time, he had the ability of taking.

He needed bread.

* * * * *

12:01--he was officially 21 years old, and his first act as a legal American man? Buying a loaf of bread. As he drove into the supermarket parking lot and parked, little did he know the Pandora's Box he would be opening by swinging his car door open.

"Let me go, Johnny!"

Caleb's head shot toward the voice at the opposite end of the dark lot. She was trying to loosen her arm from his vise of a hand, trying to remove herself from the position he put her in, between himself and the tree.

"Let GO!"

"I said 'Listen,' you bitch!" Johnny, as she called him, refused to let her go, instead tightening his grip.

"You're hurting me!" she screamed louder, using up all her energy in a futile attempt to escape.

"Oh, what's the matter, baby?" he responded. "Don't like a little pain? Well, then you're going to hate this! You'll wish you never even HAD that filthy little cunt 'a-yours!"

"No! Stop it! Please, Johnny, no!"

"Nowhere to run, slut! Nowhere--"

His head was then pulled back by his long black hair. He stopped wondering and started worrying as a small pointy object poked at his windpipe. He's pulled a small distance away from the girl, but his grip on her left wrist didn't loosen, mostly out of shock.

"Now," Caleb said in his lowest, most threatening voice. "Won't THIS be an interesting story? You get to tell all your little friends about how you got stopped from raping your girlfriend--"

"EX-girlfriend!" the girl quickly chimed in.

"Sorry. You get to tell them about how you got stopped from raping your ex-girlfriend, by a complete stranger, with a car key."

"A car key?" Johnny exclaimed. "You crazy? You can't kill me with that!"

"No," Caleb replied. "But I can make sure you never sing in the shower again. And you damn sure seem like a 'sing-in-the-shower' type. Now, kindly let her go."

After a few seconds, Johnny let his grip slack, allowing the girl to yank her wrist away, rubbing it with her other hand.

Without releasing his gaze on the potential predator, Caleb spoke up. "Girl? What's your name?"

"Sera."

"Tommy. Get in the car, Sera."

She didn't hesitate. She power-walked to the passenger side, opening the door and closing it with authority behind her. Caleb released the key from Johnny's throat and pushed him as hard as he could before going back to the driver's side. He put the key in the ignition and turned the car on as Johnny was getting to his feet. He reversed as far as he could before putting it in 'DRIVE' and speeding out of the parking lot, out of Johnny's eyesight.

"Thank you SO much, Tommy," Sera stated, relieved.

"My name's not Tommy," Caleb replied.

"Oh."

* * * * *

Caleb carried the two mugs into the living room of his small apartment, spoons sticking out of the creamy brown beverage. He handed Sera the green mug, keeping the blue cup to himself.

"Thanks," she said.

"Of course." He sat in the chair adjacent the couch he placed her on. "Please forgive the mess," he begged. "I normally don't have company."

Didn't seem all that messy, but she decided to humor him. "That's OK." She blew on the hot chocolate before delicately taking a sip. "So," she placed the cup onto a coaster on the table in front of her. "Caleb. How often do you save damsels in distress?"

Caleb laughed a bit. "Yeah, my mask and cape are at the dry cleaners." Sera smiled and chuckled, and Caleb's heart fluttered. This gorgeous woman had a smile that could melt ice. He didn't know about any other guy, but Caleb's soft spot was a woman's smile. He didn't need to see her half-naked, fully naked, or whatever. Still, with Sera here, it wouldn't have hurt--she was absolutely breathtaking. She wasn't supermodel thin, but she wasn't fat like him, either, not at all. She was that perfect median: just barely enough meat on her bones to give her curves that went for days. Through his mind, only one sentence flew by:

'She'd never give me the time of day.'

In the midst of her smile, Sera interrupted the moment of levity. "By the way, why did you lie about your name?" She picked the mug up again.

"Figured that'd make me harder to find. Just in case he's got those kinds of friends."

"He doesn't," she informed him. "I mean, he shouldn't. I think I know all his friends. We've been together for a year now."

Caleb could see that she was close to breaking down, but he had to ask. "Is this the first time he's hurt you? Physically or otherwise?"

Her head down, she refused to speak for several seconds. "Kind of ironic, isn't it? This kind of shit happens to a girl named 'Serenity'. Everyone just calls me 'Sera'." She looked down at her cocoa, staring blankly at it. "I thought he loved me. And I thought he just had a bad way of showing it. Sure, he'd give me the occasional black eye, but he would give me flowers and get down on his knees and shit. He'd beg me for forgiveness and be so sweet. I guess it took a bout of attempted rape to finally make me see the light." A tear rolled down her cheek as she sniffled. "I got a call from this girl I knew in school," she was able to get out, through her breaking voice. "She told me that she was having an affair with him--she found an old picture of us in his wallet that we took a few months ago. She told me that if she knew he already had a girl, she never would have done anything with him, but--" Her crying got worse, but she said as much as she could. "I called him on it, but he wouldn't stop lying, so I walked out. He followed me and--."

Caleb quickly went to sit beside her. He didn't know why--his instincts were in full swing tonight. First, the bar, then the thing in the parking lot, and now this. This girl needed comfort. He expected her to create some distance. He expected her to be repelled by him, and he was surprised beyond surprise that she didn't go running from him already.

But what happened next almost put him into cardiogenic shock: almost on instinct herself, she dug her face into the stranger's shoulder. Against her better judgment, she trusted this person that she'd known for not even one day. There was something about him, though. Something that made her trust him, his hospitality notwithstanding. The way he looked, the way he acted--sure, he wasn't the best-looking, but she sensed a charm about him. A charm that attracted her.

Caleb was hesitant to return the embrace. When's the last time he had hugged somebody? He couldn't even remember. He raised his arms and hugged her back, holding and petting her aurulent skin.

"It's OK," he whispered close to her ear. "Let it out. Let it all out."

'Let it out' she did, sobbing uncontrollably now that she had his permission. She cried for what seemed like minutes before he broke his silence.

"You can stay here as long as you'd like, OK?" He hoped his susurration was bringing Sera comfort. She gently pushed away, sniffling.

"Thanks, Caleb, but," the shaking girl started, shaking her head. "I don't want to trouble you. I'd hate to be a burden."

"No-no-no," he quickly rebutted. "If it was a burden, I wouldn't have asked. It's only until you bounce back from this, and you can do what you please then, but for right now, I think it's best if you just stayed put and got a good night's sleep. Besides, I could use the company--it can get really lonely around here."

The girl kept her head down and her wet eyes closed. Her perfectly-sized bosom heaved as she sighed hard. He touched her chin and raised her face. She looked at him, and their eyes locked.

"Please, Serenity?"

She said his name, and her heart melted. God help her, her heart melted. She smiled and nodded. He mirrored her.

"OK. You take the bed in the next room, I'll sleep on the couch." She opened her mouth to protest, but he quickly interrupted her. "I insist. Like I said, you need a good night's sleep."

"Thank you, Caleb. Thank you for everything."

"It's my pleasure. Let me just go in and straighten things up, OK?"

She nodded. He stood and walked into the bedroom and closed the door behind him. He sighed heavily, trying to get his bearings in order. The virgin in him came to the forefront of his mind, and he silently questioned if this was the right thing to do. Pushing the thoughts aside, he went to the bed and ripped off the sheets. As he reached into the closet and pulled some fresh ones down off the shelf, his mind raced.

'I hope she'll feel better in the morning.'

'God, I want to kiss those lips.'

'Does she sleep in the nude?'

'Who the fuck did that guy think he was?'

'Does she sleep in the nude?'

He finished fixing the bed and leveling the blanket, then went back to the closet and pulled out a blanket for himself, then took one of the pillows on his bed and opened the room door.

"Sera?"

"Yeah."

"Room's ready." He walked over to the couch and put his pillow and blanket on one end of it. "Sheets are fresh, so that's one less thing to worry about. Uh, the bathroom's over there--" he pointed to a door and walked over to it. "If you want to take a shower, feel free; there's towels and washcloths in there, too." She stood up and looked at him. "Also, if you want, you can help yourself to any of the clothes in my closet or dresser, but they're all a little big. I-I only bring it up because I figure I can take those clothes you're wearing down to the laundry room tomorrow. S-So-So as you can wear them. Tomorrow, that is."

She approached him, never taking her eyes off him. Caleb looked at her confused, noticing a slight glint in her eye.

"What's wrong?"

Sera didn't respond with words. She lightly reached up and grabbed Caleb by the back of the head and pulled herself up. Closing her eyes, her lips flew toward his. Before they could come into contact, however, she felt Caleb's hands grab her arms gently and push her away. Caleb pulled her away, conflicted but confirmed.

"No."

"Why not?" she said softly. "Don't you like me?"

"Of course I like you, Sera."

"Don't you think I'm pretty enough."

"God, no. You're beautiful."

"Then kiss me."

"No."

Sera couldn't believe what she was hearing. "I don't understand."

"Sera, you've gone through Hell tonight, much less this past year. This is the last thing you need right now."

"But, I want to," she informed him. "I want to, and," she paused for a second. "And you deserve it."

Caleb hesitated with his response. He looked at her and resolved, "That's exactly why I'm not going to."

Sera looked down at Caleb's pants and, seeing a bulge in front, smiled seductively.

"I, uh--I think you want to, as well."

She rubbed the front of his jeans, which only forced him to reach down and stop her before she could reach his crotch.

"He's not the one making this decision."

Sera looked at him with both disappointment and a little anger.

"Sera," he started, but a second later he decided to tweak his tone a bit. "Serenity. Please understand. I want to. I do. You're right about that. But I'm not going to take advantage of you. After everything you've been through, no way. Not like this. If we had sex tonight, I would be no better than Johnny. You're hurting, and I'm not going to let you make the mistake of fucking the first guy you see just because of it."

The anger subsided, but the disappointment still lingered in Sera's being. Caleb tried to make eye contact. "Do you understand now?" Sera nodded and headed for the bedroom as Caleb watched her. As she opened the door and stepped inside, she looked back at, for all intents and purposes, her savior. And she couldn't help but smile.

"Good night," he blurted.

"G'night," she reciprocated, before closing the door behind her, separating them for the rest of the night.

Caleb turned toward the couch. "My life's not complicated," he quietly said to himself. "No, it is not."

* * * * *

In a tired stupor, Sera moved her eyes around under her eyelids. The light was apparent through them, and the few birds that were outside were letting her know that it was morning. Still keeping her eyes closed, she wondered why her bed seemed so much bigger. Her eyes blinked open as she looked around, and it all came back to her--Johnny, her now-ex-boyfriend, the slight bruises on her wrists, and the nice big guy that helped her out.

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