I spent part of the day simply examining things around me, looking for the seam in reality or the curtain that hid whoever was orchestrating the joke that was being perpetrated against me. Alternatively, part of me continued to hope this was a dream from which I'd never wake. I looked in panes of glass, only to see the reflection of the handsome boy that I now seemed to be. I looked at my hands - slender, long fingers with cropped nails. They were nothing like the thick digits I should have been looking at. My arms were svelte, not quite thin, and felt strong. Fascinated I returned to the bathroom to examine my features. Pulling off my shirt I was pleased to see I had moderate pecs and a surprisingly flat stomach with a couple of visible abs when I tightened my belly. My skin seemed to have a light tan, except at the waistline where the skin lightened. Even my neck looked graceful, for the love of Pete!
I understand beauty is a subjective thing. Some people, male or female, are into body hair. Some are into muscles - and for some, the larger the better. Some like dark hair, some light. The list goes on. There are people, many, who'd not look a second time at the boy I'd become. But to me, he was everything I'd wanted to be.
The situation was altogether surreal, and I floated through much of the day. The other residents of the house seemed to have no interest in me, after those first curious glances. That night I showered, fascinated with the body I'd been gifted, somehow, and yet feeling somewhat guilty about it. I had no doubt, looking as I seemed to, that I'd ever walk into a room feeling like the ugly duckling again.
That night I felt exhausted, likely from the emotional strain of wondering just what was happening. The bedroom was small with a single window sporting dirty, dusty blinds. My roommate was a large kid in the throes of puberty. His face was oily and his hair lank. His face was a hive of acne, though his eyes were somewhat kind. He stared at me blankly.
"Why are you here?" he asked.
"My room. Find another one."
"I'm not sure that's how this works," I told him.
"Hey, cut the chatter. Go to sleep," the staff member said from the hallway.
"He's in my room," the other kid stated.
"You get to share now, Charlie. Make nice and go to sleep."
"My room," he muttered and lay down.
I stretched out under the thin blanket and immediately wondered what the mattress was made of. Filled with gravel was my first thought. The next thing to bother me, now that I had a second to notice it, was a slight funk in the air. I assumed it was coming from my friend in the other bed. I lay still, the only light coming from the hallway where the staff member stood. I rolled to my side, away from the door, and faced the wall.
I reached down to adjust myself and was struck again with the difference between what I was feeling in my hand and what I was used to feeling. Idly I wondered if I could get away with a quick jerk, and then my roomie snorted and I dismissed the thought. It had been a while since I'd had the desire to masturbate, but I definitely felt some hormones spurring me along. My mind swirled, and eventually I drifted to sleep.
My dreams were a wild mix of my past and my present. I saw Peggy standing over me, shaking her head, and then I saw my kids as they had been, waving and smiling. Then there was this body I was in, looking at me grimly and telling me not to screw anything up. I have no idea what any of it meant. While my dreams were busy, I slept well.
The next day was easier. I felt a bit more comfortable in my skin. I wasn't as awkward in my movements, almost as if I were mastering control of this new body. What had become of the original Drake Mathews, however? What of my old body and life? Was Peggy even now looking for me? Would she get the life insurance if I had done something weird like disappeared? In what sort of dream would I think of such details unless it were in some attempt to break the spell and wake?
After breakfast, which consisted of just cereal, I'd rummaged through the clothes I was told belonged to me. I pulled out name brand clothing - Nike, Under Armour, Adidas and Calvin Klein. I'd never bought name brands for myself, though Peggy and I had splurged occasionally on birthdays or at Christmas time for the children. I knew I was looking at hundreds of dollars worth of clothes that my own kids would have fought for. I pulled on a long sleeved white tee and black basketball shorts. No show socks and sneakers had me ready to venture outside of the building.
There was an old basketball hoop in the driveway, lacking a net. In my previous life I'd been an avid player, though one without much skill. I took a beat up, nearly bald basketball outside and started to fool around a little. Whatever else was going on, this young body had energy to spare and wanted to move. Soon I was shooting the ball from all over the driveway and driving in for layups. Flat cap showed up for work in the early afternoon and challenged me to a game.
Despite the size difference, I beat him soundly. He demanded a rematch and that was much closer, but I still managed to come away with the win. He blamed it on being old and I knew for a fact that was a valid reason to lose to a teen. That left out his obvious lack of regular exercise.
After flat cap had gone inside I walked around the driveway, bouncing the ball between my legs. It was a drill I'd seen others do countless times and that I'd tried myself, but I had always seemed to be just uncoordinated enough not to be able to manage it. Now I did it easily, passing the ball between my legs faster with every step. As I did I wondered about my situation and how I'd take care of myself. Although I had education, I didn't have the proof of that anymore. As a child I'd be a ward of the state unless relations were found. I'd think if Shell - short for Michelle - were correct about me being in the hospital for a month or so, relatives could have been found. Should have been, if they existed.
"Well, how does that feel?"
I had been so focused on the drill - and the fact that I could perform it! - that I nearly missed the question and its asker. I looked up to see the old bartender from my night out at the gay bar. He was dressed like a man going to a fancy dinner in a suit with pinstripes, a long overcoat, even on this warm day, and a fedora to cap it off. His beard and hair were a salt and pepper version of the snow white I remembered, but there was no doubt it was him. He was looking at me as if he knew something others didn't, and of course he did. He knew me before whatever had happened had, well, happened, and I wanted to know what that was. I dropped the ball as if it no longer existed and strode up to him.
"What's going on? What's happened to me?" I asked. "Is this a joke? Am I dreaming?"
He smiled benignly. "Aren't you enjoying it? Or is it not everything you'd hoped?"
I frowned. "What do you mean?"
He smiled widely. "Don't you remember? We talked about all those things you'd wished you'd been, what things might have been like had some things been different."
I leaned to one side. "Not really. I drank more than I normally do. Did. I don't really remember everything that was said."
"Oh. Well, that explains it. If I'm honest, that elixir has a tendency to mess with the old memory a bit as well."
"Is that why I can't remember?" I asked quickly. "I woke up looking like I'm fifteen, my body acts like I'm a teen and people are saying I just lost my parents. Only," I said as I rubbed my chin, "I lost my folks years ago. I have no memory of a car crash that spared me and killed my so-called parents. They said my name is Drake. Please tell me what the hippy dippy hell is happening to me!"
"Hippy dippy hell," he repeated and chuckled. "Well, the explanation is kind of simple, yet complicated. I couldn't explain the inner working of it all to you, not so it would make sense. But I can give you the broad strokes to set you at ease and on your journey."
"My journey?" I asked with a frown.
"Sure. That's all life is." He chuckled and placed a hand on my shoulder and it felt huge and heavy. "Do you remember us talking about the multiverse?"
I thought, searching my memory. "No, I can't say that I do."
Removing his hand he leaned back and looked up at the sky and smiled before looking back at me. "The basic idea is multiple universes. Multiple realities. They exist side-by-side and each time a decision is made, new universes open up from there. You with me so far?"
"Theoretically," I said. "Are you...wait, you're saying this is a new universe? I woke up in a different reality?"
"Yes and no," he said with a chuckle. "This is a new reality, another version of Earth. Another version of the United States. In most respects, you won't be able to tell the difference - this is just a few degrees away from the world you left. But to say you woke up? Well, no, that's not true at all."
"So, what then?"
His face lost its mirth and he sighed. "Drake Mathews was an arrogant prick. Perhaps that doesn't go far enough but 'evil' seems a bit dramatic. That's not enough to do something about, of course. It's no crime to be either of those things. Even if he were truly evil, humanity has many of those. But there was a rare opportunity." He paused and looked at me, fixing me with a stare that seemed to see deeper that anyone had a right to.
"When you walked into that bar, your life had nearly ended. Heavy with regrets for the time you grew up in, for the pressures you felt you caved in to. You wished to have looked better, to have had athletic gifts and some kind of musical talent. These things, you felt, would have changed your life for the better." He paused and the corner of his mouth pulled up in a smile. "Of course, those things can have influence, especially in those developing years. Kids tend to forgive and model themselves on others with athletic prowess or physical attributes they admire. Or, they can be jealous and try to tear that person down."
"What does this have to do with me?" I asked, wondering if there was going to be a point in this conversation that would make the last day and a half make sense.
He leaned forward, smile gone. "Drake Dalton Mathews was supposed to die with his parents in a car crash. But you know, something about your story resonated with me. I thought, why shouldn't you get a second chance? What good might come of that? So, I yanked Drake's body from his untimely death. There wasn't anything of his mind left, some things are fixed points and we can't get around them once they've happened. But the body I could save."
"The flow of time, man!" he said and smiled. "Can't change what's happened. I couldn't send you back to be born again and live as the person you were. What point would that serve if I could? The same pervasive societal mores would greet you. But Drake? His life was over. I just grabbed his body and used the elixir to get you out of your old life, and body, and into his."
I blinked. "Wait. So. You're telling me I changed universes and hopped into this body - my body, now - and that I get some kind of cosmic do-over?"
He leaned back on his heels and smiled widely. "I'd say that's accurate."
"I'd say that's crazy!" I said and laughed. "That's science fiction!'
"You might say that, but there are facts you can't ignore. For instance, just look down at your body."
"I have, believe me," I replied and shook my head. "What am I supposed to do here? What about Peggy and the kids, the life insurance?"
His gaze grew soft. "I'm sorry you didn't get to say goodbye. Drake's life was about to end and I had to make what you might call a 'command decision'. It has been about six weeks since we last met and in that time, things have changed dramatically. In that reality, you died at the bar just as soon as I pushed you over here. I had to do that before you actually died; fixed point you know? It took about four weeks for your consciousness to complete the transition. Peggy got the life insurance like you wanted and she kept where you were found at the time of your death from your children. Even at the end, no one knew who you were; at least, not truly."
"That's not right," I said with a shake of my head. "I was still myself. Sexuality is just a part."
"True. However, it influences so many other aspects of who we are and how we live, the choices we make and who we are free to love. Now, you get to explore that." He looked at me penetratingly. "Now you get to find out. Now you have the chance to try again and see how different life might be if you were yourself."
I blinked and moisture stung my eyes. I looked up and down the rundown street and then back at the old bartender. "I'm not sure what to do. I'm in a group home. I have no family to fall back on."
"Your old family couldn't be used to 'fall back on' as you say. Make new family. Make a different path for yourself. Oh," he said with a smile, "see if you can right some of Drake's wrongs while you're at it. Always a shame when a child dies - only fifteen - but Drake would have been unlamented. That's sad, don't you think?"
It is, I thought. "I don't know what to do. I'm lost. I knew, before, how things were going to end. I'd accepted it. Now...I can't go back. Can I?"
He folded his hands in front of him. "No, I'm afraid not. But may I ask why you'd want to?"
I glanced around to ensure no one else could hear. "This body...I feel a little lecherous. In my head I'm still fifty but on the outside...and, hey, I'm feeling weird about liking the body I have, now."
He nodded knowingly. "Stop that. You're not fifty anymore. If you think you look sexy for your age, then there isn't anything wrong with that. And I hope you find someone that you find attractive who is also your external age. You will get to hold hands, fall in love!"
I bubbled with laughter. "How am I supposed to fall in love with a teen? I'm old enough for AARP to add me to their mailing list!"
He shook his head. "No, not really. Much of your personality and experiences will be from a man who was fifty. But you're also very much influenced by the fact of being fifteen. It changes how you see the world. Some things will come naturally, like the boneless grace a teenager has when they flop onto a chair, lying across both armrests. Yet your intelligence and decision-making will be backed up by your experience. It's a swirl of different things that will influence you in different ways. Trust in this: if you're attracted to a young man, it's okay. You are, in fact, a young man again, and will be for some time to come."
I ran a hand through my hair and glanced around. When I looked back, the bartender was gone. Could I accept that? This Drake kid had hit the genetic jackpot and his body was in fine, fine condition. Maybe I was looking at this the wrong way. I'd just been given a dream. I was young and handsome and parts of my body that hadn't worked very well before were in perfect working order now. Peggy was financially secure, and my kids, well, I'd miss them. They were on their own and didn't call much, but the thought that they were out of reach still stung. Yet they would go on and live their lives. Shouldn't I do the same?
Maybe I needed to embrace this.
I spent the next week getting acclimated to my new surroundings and accepting my new body and life. Whatever kind of prick Drake had been, he'd looked good doing it. I probably would have hated him. I was delighted to have the kind of looks I'd always envied in others. I discovered the name of the town I lived in - Milton Falls - and I spent time walking through neighborhoods and discovering things like the town park, library, local Y, high school and more. School was set to start in a few weeks, and Drake had gone to this school previously. I expected to hear shortly about my parents' estate and what that might mean for me - it had been more than a month since their deaths, after all.
The way I understood it the school district was centered on a largish town that had a well-to-do area, a more middle class area, and a bit of a rundown area. The group home was in the rundown area as one might expect, but the rest of the town's strata were easily walked to. The group home rules weren't onerous, and though I had some friction with my roommate, I was largely given free reign to explore the town under the therapeutic guise of trying to regain my memory. I was due to spend some time with a trauma counselor and perhaps have some sort of ongoing therapy, but for now I was being allowed to try and let my memory be jogged.
Honestly, once I got over the weirdness of being a teen again, I began to embrace it. I had more energy, less responsibility and no aches and pains. I had youth but with the maturity of an adult to help me on my way, though that created some unique issues. I didn't like being treated like a kid, and that showed. Of course, that was more or less expected. What teen doesn't think they know more than they do or should?
I also had no need for little blue pills in order to fulfill any fantasies my imagination could conjure. I'd forgotten just how independent-minded a penis can be when a teen, and this one was no exception.
I spent my days exploring and playing and my nights curled up and reading to my heart's content. I didn't ask about anything to do with the Drake others might have known, as those things would bite me at some point anyway. One day the director of the group home apologized that I couldn't have my cell phone until the county approved it. I think he about passed out when I told him I didn't care. Those things are annoying, sort of like an electronic leash, though I imagined I'd need to get used to one.
That first weekend was a lesson in what people thought of Drake Mathews. I left the group home in the late morning and made my way over to the town park. There were already a few people idly shooting on the court and I joined them. No one questioned my being there, as had happened to me in the youth of my past life, but neither did they welcome me. In a way it was almost as if they didn't dare. I played hard all day and thought I'd made a decent impression on people, but Drake's reputation wasn't to be dealt with so easily.
Anything I did, like a foul, was taken as if I'd purposely tried to hurt someone. Most seemed to shrug it off, some shot a dirty look, but one guy wasn't going to let anything slide.
He was built on a large scale, probably six foot two, and solid as a brick shit-house. He had a mop of blond curls on his head with the sides cut close to his scalp. His baby face belied his physical structure and revealed him to be close to my own age in all likelihood. He was shod in cheap sneakers like I'd have worn, with dingy socks and a bad attitude with respect to me.
I knew, in theory, I had some of Drake's bad reputation to make up for. In reality, however, I'd done nothing to these people. I was wondering exactly who Drake had counted as friends before this point when the shit-house ran me over, made a layup and exulted over my flattened body.
"That's right, Mathews, you little bitch!" he hollered as he looked down on me. He hopped, slapped his hands together and headed down the court. My teammates did not offer me a hand up, so I stood and headed down with the rest of them, steaming about getting smacked down like that.
The ball was passed to me and shit-house ran at me like a bull does a toreador. I passed the ball off, yet he slammed into me just the same.
"What the fuck, you ox!" I snapped as I pulled myself off the ground.
"Suck it up, pussy-boy," he sneered. "You're on my court now."
The next time the ball came to me I knew his game and sidestepped him. He still slapped at me, stinging my forearm, but I took a step and buried a short jumper. There was no way I'd take him in a fight, so my best bet was to get one of us off the court. Unfortunately it ended up being me as my team went down to defeat.
I scored a drink from the water fountain and wandered over to the metal benches by the court as the next game played on.
Playing a hunch I sat down next to a heavy-set brunette boy with a meaty body and a mouth entirely too small for his face.
"Hey," I said.
He glanced, eyes opening just a touch at me and nodded.
"I get the feeling you kept passing to me so that goon would kick my ass," I said conversationally. "Not very nice."
He coughed out a laugh. "Well, you're not very nice. What the hell are you doing down here, anyway? They redoing the court over at the club?"
Ah. So my suspicions had been correct. This kid didn't like Drake - me - either. It was going to be a lot of work to make a few friends, but I may as well get started.
"I wanted some competition, figured this was the place to get it." I grinned and then wiped my face with my shirt.
"Whatever. I don't know your game. Don't care, either."
I shook my head. "No game. No memory," I said as I tapped my head. "Lost it all in the crash."
His eyes narrowed. "I heard you'd been in an accident. Hoped it'd fuck you up some." He looked me up and down. "Looks like you got away, though. Too bad."
My eyes widened. I knew kids would often say things with no concept of how horrible it truly was, but it really was something else to be on the receiving end of such sentiment.
"Sorry to disappoint. So, just what did I do to you to make you hate me so much?"
"Besides being an arrogant, narcissistic prick? Might be how you embarrassed my sister at the dance last year."
I closed my eyes. "What did I do to her?"
"Seriously? Fuck you." He got up and walked away from me and I let him be. I joined in a few more games, played hard and got knocked around a bit. I knew this kind of crowd - blue collar families or lower middle class folks. If you could play, they'd give up some grudging respect and I knew I'd earned a bit that day. Not enough to wipe old hurts away, but a start.
Sunday found me back at the park and essentially the same thing happened again. This time, though, I didn't ask anyone what I'd done to them. I decided I'd save that for people I actually wanted to cultivate as friends. Some of the people I was playing with might qualify, eventually, but right now they were all too unhappy with me to consider the idea. Maybe when they softened toward me and I could get a sense of what sort of person they were, then I could expose myself to whatever hurt Drake had visited on them. Until then, I couldn't fix everything he'd done and have time for anything else.
That night I was distracted from my reading by my swirling thoughts. School was going to be a confusing situation, what with the reputation I had coming in. I wondered how many people would have wished Drake to have died in that accident, to just be done with him. How would I overcome such a thing? In some ways it was almost as bad as being gay in a small, religious town - people still judged and wanted to break me. My parents hadn't cottoned much to religion, but they very much didn't want to stand out, either. So I'd known the loneliness of being different without the support of home or community.
It bothered me because I wanted to have friends. I wanted to strive for more than I'd managed in my previous life. My teen years had sucked and, yes, high school didn't matter from the moment it ended until your life was over, but my first trip through my teen years had left me broken in some ways. It's hard when you're not athletic enough, not musical enough, just...not enough. Add in being closeted and it was a prefect recipe for loneliness and a lack of self worth. I wanted to do things differently. I wouldn't hide. Hell, maybe I could have a boyfriend.
With this in mind I headed back to the park on Monday, only to find the courts deserted. I hung around for a hour or so, went back to the group home for a snack and then wandered back with the house ball. I played on my own for a while, and was joined for a bit by a couple of college guys. We played a few games, but I was outmatched. Tuesday was more of the same, except there were no college guys. There was no way everyone had simply stopped coming because of me.
I spent that evening pondering this new life and tallying my resources. So far the group home was just letting me exist and not really interfering. Expectations, at this point, were low. Fresh from waking from a coma and with no memory, people, at least adults, seemed to be willing to let me be. But I didn't want the group home to become a permanent thing. I had no sure measure of the Mathews' resources other than the clothes I had. I wasn't sure how the law worked, if the county would sue the estate to recover the costs of my upkeep, if the hospital bills from my coma had eaten everything or if there was to be some amount set into trust for me when I reached my majority.
There might also be personal items that, while holding no sentimental value to me, could still be useful. Computers, music, camera, books or sports equipment. Perhaps a bike! I hadn't ridden one in years, but if it was true that I was indeed fifteen, I was still some time away from getting a learner's permit. Perhaps there would be a car waiting for my birthday? Which made me wonder, when is my birthday, anyway?
When I got to the park courts on Wednesday and found them empty, I started to explore the town again rather than stay at the empty court. I went to the library and read several magazines and dipped my reading foot into the pool of anime. I grew restless, though, and wanted to do something physical. While out exploring I stumbled upon a boy shooting baskets in the road in front of his house. He was slender, with an impish nose and lazy, wavy, curly light brown hair in disarray on his head. It shone in the sun and looked better than I can remember my own ever looking. He was dressed to play in a tee shirt and shorts and was sweating when I walked up.
"Hi," I greeted him. He paused and looked at me and then did a comical double take.
"Um. Hi, Drake." His eyes were a sober, unique gray with a hint of green.
He knew my name and his tone indicated that wasn't a good thing, at least not to him. So far that was the story of this life, and I almost walked away rather than have another bad experience. Being honest with myself, I was getting a little lonely. In high school I'd been a very lonely child, and I didn't want to repeat that. I had few people to talk to. The kids in the group home were, I suppose, somewhat disturbed and not very good company. This guy, though, didn't have a group of people to back him up if he chose to ignore me or get nasty. Also, he was cute. I wasn't sure how to feel about that at first. After all, in my head I'm still feeling, somewhat, fifty and dying of cancer. But the new me is just fifteen and brimming with all the energy, awkwardness and hormones the scene calls for. This guy would be my first project.
"Want to play?" I asked with a smile.
He glanced around. Wondering if it were a joke? If I were going to do something terrible? I wasn't sure.
"Uh, well, I have to go in, soon," he said hesitantly. Ah, he could have slammed the door but he was polite. Polite and cute. Yeah, I wanted to know more.
"Just to eleven then?" I asked and smiled at him. "You can have first."
His eyes darted around again and he let out an almost inaudible sigh. "Okay."
He took the ball out and ranged to my left and I moved with him, keeping one hand up and one stretched toward him. He took a quick step to my left and darted back to my right. I moved to recover and get in front of him before he could drive for the easy lay up, but he'd gotten a step on me, and just like that I was down one to nothing.
"Damn, that was fast. Won't fool me on that cross again," I said with a grin and tossed the ball to him. He looked at me oddly.
"Um, want to make it loser's ball?"
I put my hands on my hips. "That depends, are you calling me a loser?"
I laughed. "That's okay. Winner's ball. I like the challenge of having to stop you before I get a chance to score."
His eyes widened for just a moment and then he checked the ball with me and we started again. He was a strong player but I felt like I gave him a good match. He started off tentatively and then fell into the competition. As we played he grew more confident and made a few minor taunts that I gave right back to him. I complimented his shots, kept the chatter on the lighter side and tried to have some fun. For his part, by the time he hit the winning point he was relaxed and seemed to have calmed down.
"Good game," I said, breathing heavily and bouncing his ball.
"Yeah, good game," he said and bent over, hands on his knees. I sent a short jumper up and enjoyed the snap of the net as the ball passed through. I walked over to my opponent and he looked up at me. A flicker of fear or irritation flashed through his expression - perhaps some of both, really. It was disappointing to see on his pretty face. I held my hand out.
"Yeah, I know who you are," he said warily.
"I figured, since you called me Drake," I said with a grin and leaving my hand out. "Thing is, I was in an accident and have zero memory of anything before that. At least anything specific. From what little I can gather, I was kind of a dick. Little bit of a fresh start for me, so...I'm Drake. Nice to meet you."
He took on a thoughtful look and then reached out to me, shaking my hand. "Kyle Winters. And yeah, you're a dick. Lots of reasons people called you Draco. Like Draco Malfoy."
Letting go of his hand I pushed my lips off to one side. "Great, I'm infamous. Like I said, sort of a fresh start for me. Um, sorry if I did something sometime to you. I really can't remember anything."
Kyle took a step back and looked away for a moment. He placed a hand on his hip and then back at me. "Well, congrats on the fresh start. Even if it's true you can't remember, I'm sure no one else has forgotten. See you."
Kyle turned and picked up his ball and I took a step toward him. He flinched, frowned at me and I shrugged.
"For real, I have no memory. My folks died in a car accident, and somehow, my memory went with them."
He looked away from me, toward his house. He probably wished he were inside already. "Well, I'm sorry that happened to you."
I smiled. "See, I can tell you kind of are sorry for me. So please, I'm not asking you to forget what I did. In fact, I'd really like to not be a total dickhead. But, besides the guys in the group home, you're the only person I've met that I'll be going to school with who has even treated me like a human." I paused and considered. "Um, you do go to Wadsworth High right?"
He shifted the ball onto his hip and eyed me, squinting slightly. "How'd you know it was Wadsworth if you lost your memory?"
I smiled widely. "Kyle, man, all I've done for the last week and a half is walk around and discover this little town. I found the school, the library - which rocks, by the way - and the park. Lots of players on the weekend, but dead during the week. I haven't found many people, really, but I've found a lot of places. Including Wadsworth High School."
He looked at me with an appraising eye. "Camp runs right up to opening of school. Most kids are at camp, that's why you haven't seen anyone."
"You don't go to camp?" I asked.
He shook his head. "I did, but we went on vacation. Came back last night and my parents didn't want to pay for a full week of camp for me to go for just a few days."
"Makes sense. What did you do for vacation?"
"We...this is too weird," he said and shook his head.
I felt him slipping from me so I took a step back and contritely said, "Sorry. Everyone seems to kind of hate me. Well, except the group home kids. They just ignore me, but they probably think I'm a dickhead, too."
He snorted but said nothing.
"I'm not your responsibility or anything. I, um, just wanted to talk to someone." Jesus, that sounded a little desperate.
He let out a tiny sigh. "We went to Maryland. Ocean City. Spent some time on the beaches, doing touristy stuff."
I pointed toward him. "I can tell you got some sun, huh? I'd love to hit a beach. Nothing like ocean air, right?"
He sat down on his ball and looked up at me. "I don't get it. You seem different. Really different. You say you don't remember, but how do you know what the ocean smells like?"
Taking a cue from him I plopped down on the edge of his lawn. "I wish I knew. Like, I don't remember my life - people, places...that's just gone. General stuff, though, like speech, the idea of what the ocean smells like or the rules of basketball...that's all there."
He looked at me thoughtfully. "What do the doctors say? You hit your head or something, right? Only a matter of time until you get your memories back?"
I shrugged. "The first thing I remember is waking up in the group home last week. No joke, I don't even have a mark on me, Kyle." I tilted my head around to let him see. "No dents, bruises or whatever. Now that you mention it, I haven't seen any doctors since then. I mean like, a psychiatrist or something. Not that I can remember, anyway. I'm supposed to walk around and try to get something to trigger memories."
He nodded slowly and then stood, picking up his ball. "Well, it'll probably come back."
I scrambled to my feet. "I don't think I want it to." Of course I was pretty sure that wouldn't happen, but I thought this was the right play to further some kind of friendship with Kyle.
He paused again and frowned. "Wouldn't you want to remember your parents or your friends?"
I shrugged. "Were my parents assholes? Who are even my friends? No one has come looking for me. Did I hang around with dickheads?"
Kyle ran a finger under his nose. "I don't know anything about your folks, really. The people you hang with at school, well, that's another story."
"Fill me in?"
"It's kind of complicated. I'm not so sure about saying something to you. If your memories do come back, and I'm guessing they will, then you'll know all the crappy things I said about people that are supposed to be your friends."
I thought for a moment. "I see where you're coming from. I know you don't owe me, but." I smiled and shrugged. "Could you take a shot at general descriptions? Nothing too nasty?"
His eyes widened and he let out a breath. "I don't know. I'd like you more without them," he said and chuckled. His face settled into pensiveness and he began to speak, slowly. "I guess the guy I'd most call your friend, but kind of a loose definition, is Jeremy Burke."
"He dress in designer clothes and have a bad attitude?" I asked. "I mention it because I have expensive labels on everything I wear and everyone hates me. Except you."
"The day is young," he said dryly and I burst out laughing. "Jeremy does wear expensive stuff, I guess. I never looked at him all that hard. He seems to want to watch all the fucked up things you've done just for a laugh. Not a lot of empathy in that guy."
"Was I like that?"
"Lack of empathy? Yeah." Kyle looked uncomfortable. I was making him nervous. Kyle frowned and shook his head. "You seem different, but I just can't trust you, Drake."
I cleared my throat and nodded. "I get it. That's okay. I'm going to come back tomorrow. The next day, too. I'm going to show you someone new." I paused and looked into his intriguing eyes. "I'm going to convince you, Kyle."
A confused smile crossed his lips. "Why me?"
"You're nice. Even though I was obviously someone you thought was a cock, you still treated me like I was worth being polite to. You could have just walked into your house and left me here on the street." I shook my head and wagged a finger at him. "You didn't. I think that says a lot about who you are, Kyle Winters."
He barked out a laugh. "I was just afraid you'd kick my ass or something."
"Sure, you can play it cool," I said in a teasing tone. "But I see through you." I pointed my fingers from my eyes to his repeatedly, as if to say I had my eyes on him.
He rolled his eyes, laughed lightly and bounced his ball. "Whatever, Mathews."
"You're also funny and smart." I paused as he flushed slightly at the compliment and making him look more appealing. "The...circumstances of my memory loss, the personality changes...this is who I am, now. Draco and the crap he pulled are gone."
Kyle looked back at me, thinking. His pretty eyes searched my face, looking for deception or...hey, maybe he thought I was pretty, too? Either way, he said nothing.
"See you tomorrow? What time can I stop by?" I asked as I backed away slowly.
"What if I have stuff to do tomorrow?" he asked, playfully challenging my assumption.
I stopped dead. "Do you have stuff to do tomorrow?"
He shrugged. "Maybe back to school shopping," he replied, his voice dropping and filling with dread.
"Well, I'll stop by anyway. As long as I'm not being a dick, that's okay, right?" I watched him as he assessed me and then reassessed me.
I grinned all the way back to the group home as I thought of his unique eyes looking at me. I covered everything physical that I liked about him - cute face, slender body and hands that looked made for holding. His hair was artfully tousled and looked like the perfect place to one one's fingers. I liked that, as we spoke, his confidence grew. He was funny at times, without forcing anything, and he was intelligent. I think, kind as well. Of course, I was desperate for some real human contact and Kyle had drawn me in. Was it desperation on my part or who he was that made me want to know more about him?
Either way...just you wait, Kyle. I'll show you who I am. And I'm going to find out who you are.Next Chapter Previous Chapter