1. Running Away
Felix stayed where he fell this time and simply curled up. Pulling his knees to his chest felt like the right thing to do now. He wanted to cry but he was still too angry.
How. Did his dad. Even think that was an okay thing to do?
Scratch that. Luis was just the guy his mom had married. A dad by default.
Felix’s real dad was living in a military induced PTSD nightmare in an alley network somewhere on the other side of the country. He would call during lucid moments. The phone calls were getting closer together, so maybe there was a possibility that if Felix could get out there, his dad would recognize him enough of the time that it would be safe… tears burned his eyes.
Scratch that. His mom would freak.
Anger flared and the tears stopped before they could start. Luis had hit her! Obviously she hadn’t known about him being that kind of a jerk or she wouldn’t have married him.
The scene flashed through Felix’s memory: sitting on the sofa with his mom after coming out and comparing which guys on TV they each thought were cute, laughing, and Luis barging in yelling every slur he could spit. Mom getting mad and standing up. Luis punching her. Felix standing up and yelling back. Luis grabbing Felix’s arm hard and yelling about ‘showing him what them faggots do’ while undoing his pants. Mom coming up off the floor, growling, going for Luis’s eyes with the manicure she’d just had done that morning. Blood. Luis punching Mom again and Felix getting free.
“Run!” she’d said. He had. But he’d stopped in the kitchen and called nine-one-one on the land line his mom had insisted they keep.
“He’s going to kill us!” he’d yelled as soon as the operator started talking. Then he’d yelled their address. Then Luis had heard him and he’d left the phone call connected and bolted out the back door, leaping over the railing to get off the porch and racing into the forest behind their neighborhood.
The first time he fell, he’d been able to hear a distant siren. He’d also been able to hear Luis yelling and crashing after him, so he’d scrambled to his feet and gotten back to running. Every step he’d taken away from the house added a new crack in the glass covering what he’d thought was a picture-perfect family. Sure, they’d had fights and problems, but splashing through a creek cold enough to make his balls ache and then scrambling up the far bank to keep running had been the shattering moment that there was an unfixable issue.
Felix had figured out a while ago – around the same time he’d figured out and gotten the key vocabulary about himself – that his dad… that Luis was on the phobic, normative side of genders and sexuality. Lots and lots of people were. That didn’t mean they’d beat their wife and try to rape their kid… their step kid about it. Felix wasn’t even gay! As if that made a difference. He knew he was bi, or pan maybe. It had only come up because he was taking Allen as a date to the Grade 9 Formal and he’d been honest when his mom asked who he was planning on going with.
Tears finally came. Anger leaked out in salty drops as the usual forest sounds returned. Small animals doing whatever small animals do at night when they’re not sleeping. Felix had stopped being scared of the dark years ago. The quiet noises around him felt safe because these little animals felt safe enough to resume whatever they’d been doing before he arrived and crashed their party.
He sat up, sniffling, and wiped his face with his shirt. No watch, no phone, no socks and no jacket. He was only wearing shoes because Mom had asked him to take the garbage out and stopped him to ask about the dance just as he was picking up the bags. It was her favorite way to ask any hard questions about things, waiting until someone was carrying something, as if she knew people needed a thing in their hands to fidget with whenever she asked anything that was or could be personal. He’d dropped the garbage and perched on the arm of the sofa beside her when she’d offered a smile and her hand to hold onto instead.
Then his dad… then Luis had ruined everything.
Felix looked around. Something was looking back at him. Two circles that were too perfectly round glinted in the light of half a moon. The shape around the circles was distorted; a bloated head slumped atop a body of equal size. By squinting a bit Felix could see one rounded ear was hanging askew. It was just somebody’s old stuffed toy, forgotten on a family trip or dragged here by an animal. He stood up and walked over to it.
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