My name is James Daryl Mayfield, and I am in hell.
FREQUENTLY while I was growing up, my mother told me that God was the sole author of vengeance and judgment. Sinners would face their moment of truth when they stood before the throne. I always thought that would come after death, but as I stood looking into Brian’s horrified eyes, I wondered if maybe my judgment had arrived. The blood drained from his face, leaving him shaken and pale, and the pain I saw there nearly brought me to my knees. As he turned and fled, I caught myself just as my feet tried to follow. A whimper escaped my lips, still parted in shock, and in an unconscious attempt to be close to him, my body swayed toward the empty spot where he had been. For a moment, I tried to tell myself that it was the E, an ecstasy-induced hallucination. Sometimes I got those when Steven let me snort it instead of taking the pills. Then one of the other guys went after Brian, and I knew that it was all real.
“You okay, Dylan?” Steven O’Dell asked me from somewhere vaguely off to my left, and I felt his hand on my arm. Turning a little, I glanced at him, catching the cold look in his dark eyes. He pushed a strand of long hair, black as onyx, behind his ear from where it had fallen from a loose rubber band. I knew that the concern he faked for everyone else only partially masked the anger and jealousy that I could see all too clearly. I’d heard that a regular coke habit tended to make people paranoid. In Steven’s case, it also made him a mean, violent son of a bitch. With him as my manager—I refused to think of him as my boyfriend—I got to fuck a line of strange men for money that he took for my “expenses,” like rent, food, and drugs.
“I’m fine,” I assured him, trying for the first time in months to throw off the effect of the drugs clouding my brain. I had to think clearly because I knew that look in Steven’s eyes. “I just turned too fast is all, and got a little twinge in my back. I’ll be fine in a minute.” It was a plausible excuse because he’d just bruised the fuck out of my back and given me a black eye before we’d gotten to the studio because he thought I’d embarrassed him at the gym. I hated that all of the bruises would be noticeable once I took off my shirt. I didn’t want to be the object of anyone’s pity—least of all Brian’s.
Steven nodded and took a step forward. Instinctively, I cringed back, but he just put his arms around me, rubbing my back lightly.
“I’m sorry,” he told me quietly. He was always fucking sorry.
An awkward silence permeated the room as its inhabitants looked anywhere but at Steven and me. We waited for several minutes while Brian hid his shock and disgust in the bathroom next door. More than anything, I wished I could go to him, hold him, explain, but I couldn’t. There was nothing to explain. He had seen the brutal truth clearly written in the drugs and the black eye. With Steven right beside me, I didn’t dare risk speaking to Brian or even looking at him. Steven’s jealousy raged whether he had a reason to be upset or not. I refused to give him a reason to hurt anyone.
After a few agonizing minutes, a toilet flushed, and the door to the bathroom opened. Whispers in the hall played at the edges of my hearing, but when the voices stopped, Brian emerged, followed closely by the brown-haired guy who’d followed him out of the room. Anyone else would have mistaken Brian’s appearance for nerves, believed that the revulsion in his face was self-directed for what he was about to do, but I knew that it was all for me. As I stood in Steven’s arms, my eyes met Brian’s, and I saw no love in them. They held only contempt for me, seeing what I had become, watching me stand in someone else’s arms.
I felt the same contempt for myself.
“Scott, are you in or not, man?” Nick asked Brian, his voice betraying his frustration. “Jesus Christ, I don’t need this shit.” The last part, the quiet muttering, didn’t seem to reach Brian or the other guy, Corey. The hit Steven had given me for the shoot started to kick in more, and despite my misery, I felt happy again. He never gave me enough to get a good, strong high because I still had to fuck. I got the good dose only after he got paid. Well, unless I pissed him off for some reason; then he wouldn’t give me anything. For those nights, I had a very small stash that I’d been accumulating by taking small bits from his shit. I had a little coke, a little E, some weed, whatever I could find.
“I’m fine. I’m in,” Brian assured him, but his voice sounded hoarse and weak, as if he’d swallowed broken glass. Corey whispered something in his ear and Brian nodded. Then he kissed Brian’s temple. The sweet gesture spoke of an intimacy between them that tore at my heart. It was obvious that they were more than just simple friends, and the realization cut so deep that I had to keep from wrapping my arms around myself to hold in the torrent of pain.
He was my Brian!
I wanted to rip that guy’s stupid fucking head off because he was able to touch Brian and I wasn’t. Goddamn it, I would have given anything just to hold him, but I was Steven’s boy. If he had any idea how much I loved Brian, he would do anything to keep me. He might even kill Brian. Instead of going to Brian as I wanted to, I just closed my eyes and rested my head on Steven’s shoulder, feeling suddenly vulnerable. Steven had his moments of tenderness because somewhere, deeply buried under the hate and abuse, he did care about me. When his hand came up to stroke my face, I knew it was one of those times. I felt so desperately alone that I would take his affection. It was better than his fists.
“Hey,” Nick said, and at first, I thought he was speaking to me.
“Yeah?” As usual, Steven answered for us. There were days both on set and off that I could go nearly the entire twenty-four-hour period without speaking. I wondered a few times if my voice would simply stop working from lack of use. My mouth was meant for fucking, not for talking.
“That black eye you gave him seems to be blooming nicely. Can I guess that there are more bruises on his back and shit?”
I stared at the ground. They often spoke about me as if I weren’t there or as if I were stupid. They couldn’t know that over the past two years of incarceration, both with Steven and at the Center, I’d spent most of my time reading. I’d always loved to read, to lose myself in someone else’s life. Never before had I needed that as much as I did lately. They had a reasonably well-stocked little library at the Center, just like at a real prison. With Steven, we lived just a few stops from the library. Since Steven didn’t allow me out of the apartment at night, I had a lot of free time. Lately, I’d found that I truly enjoyed the classics.
“Our shit is none of your fucking business!” Steven yelled and pulled me to him so tightly that I cried out in pain. Nick refused to be outdone, so he got right up in Steven’s face.
“The site is about guys who fuck, not guys who go ten rounds with Tyson. If you want to keep him working, this shit stops now!” Nick rubbed his temples for a long moment and then spoke to the room at large.
“Okay, if you’re not working a camera or getting naked, get the fuck out. And someone send Taylor up to fix Dylan’s fucking face.”
I stood there with my head bowed, feeling completely humiliated. I didn’t care what they said about me. I’d lost my shame months ago. What bugged me was that they said it in front of Brian. I couldn’t stand to consider what he must think of me. The yelling back and forth started to kill my buzz, and I wished Steven had given me a bigger fucking hit. I didn’t want to deal with this shit.
“I’m going to wait in the other room for Taylor,” I mumbled to nobody in particular and turned to leave with the others who were filing out. From behind me, I heard Corey stop Brian from following. To be honest, it surprised me that he wanted to talk to me at all, but I just couldn’t face him right then.
So, instead, I went into the green room and crawled gingerly onto the bed’s plaid blanket, trying not to think. My legs bounced restlessly, and it felt as if my heart would explode as I waited for Alex. I wanted to pace, to bounce off the fucking walls, but my back was killing me. Of course, the thoughts came anyway, further killing what little buzz I’d managed to get from the E.
MY EYES did not leave him as he lay crumpled in our yard. I considered begging my parents to turn around, but I knew it would be no use. The preacher had been to our home more than a dozen times, trying to change my mind about Brian. He’d practically begged me to repent my sins. Had I known then what my mother was planning, I would have done whatever he wanted—paid whatever lip service they wanted—in order to stay with Brian. He was my whole world, and I would never forgive myself for my prideful rebellion. It had started a veritable avalanche of consequences—consequences that led to me being an addict and my sweet Brian to sell his body in porn.
The tears that started with his tortured scream continued until we left the state of Alabama. For those first few hours, I allowed myself the luxury of succumbing to the grief, and then I needed a plan. As my mother continued to babble about how great our lives would be in California, I noticed that my father continued to glance back at me in the rearview mirror. Our eyes met a few times, and the sadness in his somehow surprised me. I had thought he was on board with the idea of ruining my life, but maybe not.
After grief finally gave way to exhaustion, I closed my eyes and thought about my Brian. I had loved him in one way or another since we were just kids. Back then, he’d been the brother I’d always wanted. We shared everything, and I remembered thanking God in my prayers for giving me someone to talk to. My father had always been at work making a name for himself, and my mother had her causes. It was a lonely way to grow up—until I met Brian McAllister. The first time I saw Brian was his very first day at Crayford Elementary. We were in sixth grade and nearing the end of the school year. I was already twelve, but Brian wouldn’t turn twelve until August. When Mrs. Schultz, our grade school principal, walked him into class, he reminded me of the angels in Mama’s Bible. Mostly, it was his curly hair, but over the years, I found many things about Brian that made me wonder if he really was an angel.
He had always been my angel.
That night, that last beautiful night I held him in my arms, was the last time I had been happy. Even nearly two years later, I could still remember every touch, every whisper in the dark, every promise. That night, that experience changed my life. It made me want to be a better man, to take care of Brian the way that he should have been cared for his whole life. I wanted to go to college and get a great job so that I could be everything he needed. I never knew that I had that kind of capacity to love anyone else. Since we’d found our love for each other, there was so much I’d learned about myself.
For the first day we were on the road, I could still feel Brian’s quiet, desperate kisses as we stood in the rain. His body had trembled as I held him, and for a brief moment, I hated my mother. I knew it was a sin, but I couldn’t help it because she had hurt someone I loved. She was my mother—why could she not understand that I needed him? Brian was the other half of my soul, just like I guess Dad was her other half. If their love was okay, how could they condemn my love for Brian?
For the next four days, I held my grief and my love in my heart, not sharing it, not even speaking to my parents though they tried countless times to engage me. I just wanted to get where we were going so that I could e-mail Brian and start figuring out a way for us to continue our plans for college. I had no intention of listening to my mother or her cultish tyranny once I graduated high school.
Only, I never got the chance to graduate high school.
The night she told me about the Center, with my father staring studiously at the blank tabletop, I finally understood that she cared more about God than she did about me. The realization was sobering. When I told her that there was nothing about my love for Brian that I needed or wanted to cure, she just smiled. It seemed she had already passed the point of slapping the sin from me.
Instead, she used the only weapon she could—she used Brian.
“We should call someone because Richard must be molesting that boy to make him a homosexual,” she reasoned. I noticed that at some point, Brian had ceased to have a name. “That boy tried to corrupt you too, but I’m not going to let it happen.”
At first, I still refused, but she saw my weakness, my half-hearted refusal, and realigned her battle strategy. Instead, she reminded me about how Brian used to wake up screaming at night because he never felt safe. One night in the tree house, Brian confided in me that the only place he’d ever felt safe was at the Schreibers’. I couldn’t let my mother call the state and take that from him because of me.
In the end, I put my pride on a shelf and hid my picture of Brian behind the driver’s license in my wallet. I wanted the picture with me so that I could take it out and think of him in the dead of night, where the glimmer of a promise remained.
“JAMIE?” a quiet voice asked, and I opened my eyes to see Alex standing by the open bedroom door. He flipped his long blond hair back out of his eyes and bit his lip gingerly, waiting for me to answer. Alex, or Taylor as they called him on set, had become a good friend since we started working together a few months earlier. He was a sweet guy, but the straight guys, like Brandon, didn’t really understand Alex’s flaming personality. They thought he was just an emo twink looking for attention. But that’s just the way he worked.
“I’m here,” I told him, sitting up slowly and wiping my face. When he turned the light on and saw my face, he sighed.
“Jamie, you need—” he started as he walked toward the bed, but I cut him off quickly. I didn’t need another fucking lecture about how I had to get away from Steven. Alex never told me anything I didn’t already know.
“Brian’s here,” I said abruptly. He gasped theatrically and slapped a hand over his mouth. Anyone else would have thought he was acting, trying to be a stereotypical drama queen, but for Alex, it was natural. Dropping down onto the side of the bed, he took my hand and held it in his.
“What do you mean he’s here? Do you mean in San Diego here, or at the studio here?” When I nodded at both of his questions, he put both hands over his mouth.
“The new guy, Scott, is my Brian,” I whispered. Alex and I had talked about Brian countless times since we met on set a few months ago. He knew what it meant for Brian to be so close to me, but also how bad it could be if anyone found out.
“How?” Alex whispered. “I met him when he was here last week for a shoot with that Corey guy. He was so sweet and shy and scared. I never thought—”
“It’s my fault…. It’s all my fault. He’s got to be here looking for me,” I said, and the truth burned in my chest. “I don’t know how he ended up here at the studio. He must have become friends with Corey, and Corey got him into porn. Brian was always so shy about sex. He never would have done this on his own. Oh, God, and you said he was scared.” Alex nodded and squeezed my hand as I failed to swallow the sudden fiery lump in my throat. “And look what he gets when he does finally find me: a junkie and a whore.”
“Come on, honey, I need to fix your eye. I can’t do that if you cry,” Alex whispered and kissed me on top of the head. “Please don’t cry, Jamie.” I nodded and took several deep breaths, trying to stop.
“Start with my back. I’ll be okay in a minute,” I assured him and took off my shirt. It had been a while since I cried, probably since Steven brought me home like a stray dog. Since I was all collared, leashed, and house trained, I needed to keep myself under control. Steven didn’t like when I misbehaved, and I’d get a hell of a lot more than a smack on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper.
“Fucker,” Alex sighed as he assessed the damage. Then I heard him open the box at his feet. Hartley kept stage makeup in the studio for the guys to use if they had zits or bags under their eyes. He’d added to it when I came on board. Alex was a whiz at makeup; it was just something he had a talent for. I sucked at it, but that didn’t matter because I couldn’t reach the bruises on my back anyway. “Okay, honey, I’m sorry, but this is going to hurt,” he whispered. As gently as he could, he spread the stuff on a bruise at the base of my spine, and I tried not to whimper when he put pressure on it. When I failed, he hissed in a breath and rubbed it in, trying to make it even. He repeated it on four other places, including my shoulder, and even a little on the back of my head.
“Goddamn, that stings,” I whispered as the makeup went into the barely closed gash on my head. All of it had to be concealed because every part of my body would be on camera, naked and exposed for anyone who could afford to pay for a membership.
“Okay, babe, sit here next to the light so I can do your eye,” Alex said, and I sat up, careful not to smudge the stuff on my back. As he applied foundation to my face, someone knocked softly on the door.
“Who is it?” Alex called, and I prayed it wasn’t Brian. I had to get my shit under control before I saw him again. I knew it wasn’t Steven because he wouldn’t have knocked.
“It’s Corey,” a voice said through the door, and Alex got up. Apparently, he had locked the door behind him, maybe to keep Steven out. I could have warned him that wouldn’t work and that he’d been foolish to try. I’d gotten my head shaved last week doing that very same thing. Steven had been high and joking about wanting to fist me, so I locked myself in the bathroom. He was so unpredictable when he was high. I only intended to stay in there until he came down. Instead, he broke down the door and pinned me to the bathroom floor. Threatening to cut my face with the scissors in his hand if I resisted, he cut my hair brutally short because I had “defied” him. He wanted to demonstrate the power he held over me, as if I could forget. When Alex saw me the next day, he’d done the best he could with my hair, but in the end, he just buzzed it, telling me that it would grow back out. Hartley’d had a fit.
Alex came back to the bed and picked up the bottle again, putting a little on his fingers. Corey stood in front of me. I got the impression that he wanted to intimidate me, but it wouldn’t work. After Steven O’Dell, taking potshots from this kid would be a picnic.
“Jamie,” he said quietly, and I looked up at him, not sure why hearing that guy say my real name bothered me. “I don’t have a lot of time. Nick just sent me in here to check how long until you’re ready to shoot.”
“Then why don’t you say what you have to and leave?” I told him, and even Alex shivered a little at the coldness in my voice. I didn’t want to fucking talk to him, not if he and Brian… if they were…. I felt a small measure of satisfaction when Corey winced at my tone.
“We’re going to see what we can do to help you, but until then, you have to pretend like you don’t know him,” he begged. I just looked at him as if he’d lost his mind. Why the fuck did everyone think I was stupid? Jesus, and what did he mean they were going to see what they could do to help me? They couldn’t help me. No one could. They were just going to get Brian fucking killed if they tried.
“Tell him if wants to help me, he’ll fucking go home,” I told him, and his eyes narrowed. Corey took a deep breath, as if he were trying to keep himself calm.
“I’m not telling him that; it would break his goddamned heart. He risked so much to come out here and find you because you mean everything to him.” He took a step toward the door, getting ready to leave. Apparently, once he’d dictated my instructions, he had finished with me. But I hadn’t finished with him.
“Then the next time you guys are in bed whispering sweet nothings in the dark, tell him he wasted his time,” I told him, my voice low and deadly.
“Yeah, you’re a real joy. I can see why he blew off college to chase after you,” he said and turned to leave. Alex just watched the exchange with a look of shock on his face. The little fucker didn’t even try to deny that he… he’d slept with Brian.
“Fuck you, candy ass! You don’t know a goddamned thing about me!” I screamed at him and started to stand up, but Alex held me against the bed as he knelt next to me. “Let me go! Dammit! He’s… he’s fucking my Brian.” Then I really did lose my shit, and I tried to throw Alex off me, but he held firm. “My Brian,” I whispered. Alex stood quickly and wrapped his arms around me while I fought against him.
“You need to go,” Alex told Corey in a low voice. “Shh… Jamie, hon, we need to finish.” Corey didn’t move. He just stood watching the exchange with a neutral expression.
“He’s going to find out,” I choked against Alex’s shoulder. “He’s going to find out, and he’s going to kill Brian. I don’t care anymore if he kills me, but Brian… I can’t….”
“Jamie, we’re going to try—” Corey started, but I didn’t let him finish, and his face flushed with anger.
“Please, if you care about him at all, you will get him the fuck away from here. I am begging you,” I said, trying to hold in my useless tears.
“He won’t go, not now that he’s seen you. He’s absolutely determined to save you,” Corey said as he walked to the door. “I’ll let Nick know you’re almost ready.”
“He can’t save me,” I said quietly as he closed the door behind him.
The fucking E just wasn’t doing a damned thing for me, and I thought about asking Steven for another hit, maybe one of the pills—anything to take the edge off the pain in my back and in my heart. I didn’t want to fucking think anymore.
Alex took me into the adjoining bathroom and sat me down on the closed toilet. He grabbed a rag from the linen closet and wet it with cold water before wringing it thoroughly and patting my face and neck. Murmuring words of comfort I didn’t deserve, he helped me calm down so that he could finish covering the black eye. It didn’t look perfect when he was done, but so long as Nick kept the camera on my left side, it wouldn’t show up on screen. Alex hugged me again just once before we went back into the room to shoot.
“Taylor, I’m keeping you,” Nick said as he looked over my face. When I turned around to show him my back, he clapped Alex on the shoulder. “Damn, you did his back, too? I was just going to have him lay on it. Thanks, kid.” Alex mumbled something and went to stand out of the way. He was worried about me; I could see it in his face. He wanted to see how I handled being in a scene with Brian. I wondered that myself.
I didn’t look at anyone when I entered the room. I just stared at the floor, hoping that it would swallow me before I had to go through with the scene.
“Let’s start out with the four of you on the bed. Scott can start out with Corey, and Brandon with Dylan. I want you to undress each other, do some oral side by side, and then we’ll break to move a couple over to the couch.” Brian looked up, catching my eye briefly before he looked away, and I felt nauseated. If Brian was determined to save me, then he would feel compelled to go through with the shoot. Being on the crew and in the studio would keep him closer to me. If he wouldn’t stop the shoot, and I couldn’t stop it, he would be fucking another guy, forcing me to watch.
“Come here, baby,” Corey said to Brian and pulled him over to the bed. I noticed that he positioned Brian so that Brian couldn’t see me. Unfortunately, I could see them as Corey started to kiss Brian, and my heart fucking ached in my chest. For several long minutes, I couldn’t stop myself from watching another guy kiss the man I loved. It was like a train wreck. I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t. So, I did the only thing I could. I grabbed Brandon and pushed him to a sitting position on the foot of the bed a few feet from where Corey pulled Brian’s shirt over his head. I straddled Brandon’s lap and kept my balance by holding his shoulders. Just like every other time I had to fuck some guy, I closed my eyes and imagined Brian’s smile. The soft curve of his lips, the way his face lit up, I tried to remember every detail as I kissed Brandon, but all I could see when I closed my eyes was the horror on Brian’s face.
I pulled away, and Brandon, who must have felt my hesitation, kissed down my neck instead. He tried to give me a few seconds to breathe because the room just didn’t seem to have enough oxygen. I kept my eyes closed so that I wouldn’t have to see Brian, but I could hear them, and that broke me even further. Stroking Brandon’s short blond hair, I felt him moving down toward my chest, so I pulled his shirt up and rubbed his chest. It was all perfunctory. By that point, I’d done this so many times I could put my body on autopilot and just tune out. Unfortunately, when I did that, I focused on Brian and had to swallow past the fiery lump in my throat.
More than anything, I wished that I could just take his hand, pull him out of that bastard’s arms, and run. But I had nothing—no home, no money, no support, and Steven stood guard just downstairs. Even though I’d been under his thumb for months, I’d never felt as trapped as I did then—Brian had been caught too, and I was to blame.
Brandon suddenly moved closer to me on the bed, and I pulled myself out of my thoughts. I had a job to do. Chancing a glance up at Brian and Corey, I dug my fingers into the bedding to hide my clenched fists. Corey had his filthy cock in Brian’s mouth. Goddamn it, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t watch Brian touching someone else like that. I collapsed onto my back and pulled Brandon on top of me.
“Straddle my shoulders,” I whispered, and he looked down at me in surprise because I’d never taken the initiative with him. Brandon was a top—a straight top—and because straight guys were a bigger money draw, we accommodated whatever would keep them hard. Everyone knew they were in charge. But I didn’t want to be able to see; I wanted his legs on either side of my head so all I could see was him. I wanted to have to force my attention on simply breathing and sucking. Really, that’s all I was good for anyway.
I got exactly what I wanted, and within a few minutes, I could focus only on trying to breathe as he fucked my throat.
“Yeah, fuck, Dylan, just like that,” Brandon moaned for the cameras, even though he was starting to lose his erection. We often had to stop as many as ten times in a shoot for Brandon to get hard again. Guys just weren’t his thing. Sometimes his wife, Leslie, would be on the set to fluff him and get him ready again. With different camera angles and keeping him all the way in my mouth, we could keep going for a few more minutes while they kept his dick off screen.
Instead of stopping, however, he moved down and started to suck me while he stroked himself, trying to get his hard-on back. He knew, as I did, that if we didn’t get the shoot, none of us got paid. Hartley wouldn’t pay for a shoot he couldn’t sell. I’d heard from Alex that Brandon did the gay-for-pay gig because he was trying to support his wife and twin baby girls. He would do whatever he needed to in order to take care of them, so he would not let a shoot go bad. His lips wrapped around my cock, and I moaned. I thought it sounded generic and forced, but the guys jacking off to it wouldn’t really care.
I had just enough of a buzz left that his automatic stroking and occasional sucking kept me interested. Rocking my hips slowly to look like I was really into it, I snuck another glance at Brian and Corey. They had switched as well, and Brian leaned back against the headboard with his eyes closed as Corey bobbed his head, sucking him. I hated the way Brian stroked the back of Corey’s hair. I hated how comfortable they looked with each other. Most of all, I hated wondering if Corey turned Brian on better than I ever had. Those sweet, tender moments in the tree house probably didn’t hold a candle to a full-fledged porn star.
I’d never hated myself more than I did in that moment.
“Guys, hold up a minute,” Hartley said. Immediately, Brandon dropped me from his mouth and sat up. I sat up, too, looking over to see that Brian and Corey stopped a little more slowly. Corey talked quietly to Brian, who continued to look at the bed and nod. God, I wanted to be the one comforting him. “Okay, let’s keep Scott topping in this scene and switch him up with Brandon. So, Scott, stay on the bed with Dylan. Corey and Brandon, you guys can take the chaise.” Wait… Brian was a top? Oh God, I just assumed that Corey was the top and that I’d do the scene with him. Oh Jesus. I can’t make love with Brian on camera. I just… I can’t.
Everything in the room suddenly had a kind of heat haze around it as Brian walked to the foot of the bed and stood next to me. He didn’t look at me; he just stood quietly and waited for instructions. I felt like I was suffocating and I took deep, slow breaths so that I wouldn’t pass out. Steven would be furious if the scene stopped because I couldn’t finish.
“Corey, why don’t you start out on top, and then Brandon can get you on your hands and knees. Dylan, turn around so I can see your back,” Nick said and moved in closer. “The makeup is still okay. Why don’t we start you out on top, too, and then on your back? When you start to sweat, the makeup might run.” I couldn’t even think about what would cause me to sweat because it ripped me raw.
Brian and I watched for a minute while Corey climbed up onto Brandon’s lap and waited for Nick to give the signal to start. Brian’s hand slid into mine, and I couldn’t help but remember sitting in the movie theater holding hands with him. It felt like a lifetime since I’d touched him. He pulled me up to the head of the bed and lay down on his side, scooting back so that I could lie with him. His head rested on one of the pillows, so I rested my head on the other and we just stayed there. It was the first time I was able to look into his face in so fucking long. He looked the same, but different, older. The boyish roundness in his face had sharpened into more defined angles. His freckles had been replaced with a strong, even tan, like he spent a lot of time outdoors. Curiosity burned in my chest. Before we had been separated, I’d known everything about his life; we’d been together each and every day. But as he lay in front of me, he was like a pond reflection of the boy I’d loved all my life.
Not waiting for Nick, Brian cupped my face with strong hands. He stroked my forehead, my cheek, my lips. I thought he was going to touch the bruise under my eye, but he simply passed over it. Under the pretense of kissing my cheek and then my ear, he whispered, “You’re so beautiful.”
His voice trembled, and the reverence I heard made me hate myself even more. How could he still believe that? Knowing that the cameras weren’t rolling yet, I shook my head minutely. I wasn’t beautiful. He had an idealized picture of the boy I had been back home, and it clouded his perception of the mess I had turned into.
“Jamie, I—” he started, but I cut him off. I couldn’t stand it if he told me that he loved me. There’s no way I would be able to keep myself together.
“Please, don’t say it,” I whispered. I felt him nod, and when I took a chance and glanced at Brian’s face, his expression tore at me. I saw tears welling in his red-rimmed eyes. Staring at the sheet just above my shoulder, he refused to meet my eyes again. He looked so lost, so broken, that I just couldn’t stop myself from pushing him onto his back and holding him in my arms. He responded with a small whimper against my lips as he held me. Putting his legs around my waist, he held me as tight as he could.
He trembled as if he were terrified of letting go.