"Was I your first?" I whispered, closing my eyes and letting the tears fall.
"Come on, Mello, don't do this." He was back to begging.
"No. You have to answer. Was I…your first?"
The carefully crafted illusion that I had created shattered. I didn't know the person standing in front of me. I never did.
Because I didn't have any other friends, I stupidly thought that he was in the same boat. Because I had never been interested in girls, I had never seriously thought that Matt would have gotten a girlfriend. Sure, I assumed he was straight, but his falling in love and having sex with a girl was incomprehensible to my naïve mind. True, he never mentioned those things to me, but then, I never asked. I never acted like a real guy, and never even hinted at being interested in "conquests" or bragging about how much pussy I could get. Why would he tell someone like me that he had girlfriends? Maybe I was never his best friend.
It was all making sense now. He was my best friend because he was all I had, but if he had other friends one of them was bound to be his best friend. After all, they weren't the son of a mafia head, they weren't moody and bitchy, and they never got involved with him romantically. All those times that he had seemed uncomfortable or hesitant, it was because he didn't want to be with me. I was a burden.
"Why did you sleep with me?" I choked out. "W-was I just some new c-conquest? Something that you could brag about? D-did it mean anything?" I was humiliated and broken-hearted. All those kind words that he said to me, they were lies. Even worse was that most of this could have been prevented if I had just paid some fucking attention.
"Please don't be like this, Mello. Please! It wasn't like that at all."
"No, no, I'm sorry. I wasted your time and money, sorry. I'll pay you back."
Matt tried to say something, but I couldn't listen anymore. I had to get away and clear my head. Turning on my heel I rushed off before he could see me completely break down. I had already imposed on him for too long and I didn't want to guilt him into anything. It wouldn't make me happy to stay with him if he didn't care about me the entire time. The entire time, I thought that I was special, that he really did love me. I had opened up to him completely, sharing every part of my life with him. Now, the memories were mocking me. Every time we touched, every time we laughed, every time we made love. No, that's wrong. We didn't make love. We had sex, and that was all.
I couldn't really blame him. After all, I was the one who pushed and pushed. I never really gave him a chance to back out or to say no. Maybe he was scared that if he refused me, I would have had my father kill him. As much as I didn't want to think that this was true, it had to be. There was no other reason for him to have gotten so involved with me. I knew how much he loved his sisters, and if he wasn't alive to protect and care for them they would be dead or thrown into the foster system. He cared too much for them to let that happen, so he had accepted my advances. Matt had prostituted himself for the well-being of his sisters.
Leaning against some building, I let it all out. Like the pathetic person I was, I cried. I sobbed and moaned, clenching at the stone underneath my hands. For the first time in my life, I truly understood what it meant to be broken-hearted. There didn't seem to be enough air as I gasped and my legs were trembling badly. My stomach was churning and my head was pounding. Everything hurt and I couldn't believe that only a few minutes ago I was flying high. Earlier tonight, I had been truly happy, but now…now, I was more miserable than I had ever been.
Large, familiar hands grabbed my shoulders and pulled me away from the building. "Come on, let's get you out of here."
"Shhh, come on."
I couldn't even see straight, so I let him lead me along. If he hadn't been supporting me, my legs would have given out already. A part of me wondered how he had found me or why he wasn't freaking out over the fact that I was in a dress, but I still hurt too much to care. Those things could be explained later, but what was important right now was that I got out of there. I must have made a total fool of myself. Strangely, with his strong arms around me, I found myself crying harder. It was because I was thinking of how I had opened up in Matt's arms. I bared myself to him completely, and it meant nothing. Now I was in strong arms that truly did care about me, and again, I was opening up. I was letting out all the tears and pained sobs that my own foolishness had caused.
"Can you sit?" Butch asked. I nodded. It didn't matter where we were as long as I was away from Matt. Fuck, I could have been standing in front of my father and I wouldn't have cared. There was nothing that he could do to me that would hurt anymore than this pain did. "Got yourself into a pretty screwed up situation, didn't you?" he sighed.
"I, I- (sob) sorry…"
"Hey, it's fine. You deserve to cry it out."
The time seemed to float by endlessly, running just as long as my tears did. Butch was moving around doing something, but I couldn't find the energy to care. Even if he was calling Jerry, it didn't matter. I would get grounded for life, but didn't bother me at all. In fact, I would prefer that. If they punished me like that, I would never have to worry about seeing Matt again. I could even quit school.
"I'm such an idiot," I whispered, rubbing at my swollen eyes.
"We all make mistakes, Mello. It's nothing to be ashamed of."
"Th-thanks." Something smelt terrible. "Is Jerry coming?"
"He's already here, kid."
It was something about his tone. Something wasn't right. I opened my eyes and saw that my feet were resting in something; it was a liquid, thick, dark…red. Giving in to a sob, I looked to the side and saw Jerry leaning against the alley wall with a bullet hole in his forehead.
"What's g-going on?"
Now I could see that Butch was loading his gun with bullets. The hand that was balancing the clip was also holding the hunting knife that he always carried around. Out of the corner of my eye I could see someone entering into the alley.
Butch looked up at me and shook his head. "I wish it didn't have to be like this. But, as I've already explained to you, life is a game. We're all pieces, doing our jobs. Unfortunately, you didn't learn fast enough; you've fallen a step behind."
"I don't understand," I whimpered. Fear was replacing my anger and sadness.
My bodyguard sighed and shoved the clip into place. "Juliana Rosewood. That was the name of my lover, the one person that I cared for. I swore to keep her safe forever. Do you know what happened to her?"
"Killed herself, actually. You see, she had been given by her family to the head of another mafia family. It was her duty, and even when I tried to convince her to run away with me, she refused. She was going to marry and love that man. But one day, she found out that the man she had given her entire life up for had a mistress. She became furious and jealous leading to her suicide. It was a stupid move, even I know that, but the sad thing is that she didn't see the truth."
"Yes. The mistress was actually an unwilling participant. Your father had fallen for a normal young woman who wanted nothing to do with the life of the mafia. She tried to run, but it was vain. He took what he wanted, and raped her. Then she got pregnant with you, Mello. Luckily for her, there were complications at birth, and she died having you."
"What does this have to do with me?" My voice was calm now. Even with my splitting headache and heartache, I understood what was going on. There was no escape for me. My legs were too tired and I was in heels whereas he was rested, not emotionally and physically exhausted. It would be embarrassing to try to run from him.
"Everything needs to be taken from your father," he replied softly. "You're the only thing that he has left and it's my job to take that away."
"Then hurry up and kill me." Maybe I didn't care if he killed me? I was sick of the drama and the disappointments. Wasn't it sad that no one really loved me or cared for me? I had grown up with Butch, had trusted him. But I guess that even he couldn't love me. "I'm sick of this world."
He frowned. "It's not that simple, Mello. Your death has to be a symbol to the rest of the gangs and families. You should know that already."
"What are you going to do?" I choked, shivering in fear.
"Look, I like you, darlin'. Sorry that it has to be this way." With that, he signaled to the guy standing at the opening of the alleyway.
The man moved forward and grabbed my arm. Carelessly, he yanked me off of the crate I was sitting on and shoved me forward onto my hands and knees. A piece of cloth was forced into my mouth and tied tightly. I could taste blood as the crude gag cut into the corners of my mouth.
"We need to hurry up, Butch," the man grumbled.
"Yeah, yeah. Better luck in the next life, Mihael."
Hearing my name was bittersweet. It was rare that anyone would use my real name, and yet sad that he would only utter it before murdering me. Even Matt never called me by my real name. Just thinking about him brought back a wave of pain. I barely felt as the gag was shoved up to the roof of my mouth and something was pressed against my mouth. Before I even understood what was happening, a cock was shoved into my mouth. The stranger was in front of me, shamelessly forcing me to take him into my mouth. Having never given oral, I was shocked and repulsed. I didn't want to do such a disgusting thing! But he didn't care. Holding a gun to my head, he continued to violate my mouth, pushing deeper and deeper. It was impossible not to gag and struggle to breathe, but he didn't slow down at all.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I tried to block it all out. I had thought that tonight was my lucky night, but I had been terribly wrong. Instead of playing more games at the arcade and then making love with Matt on the leather seats of his precious car, I was being raped and going to be murdered. They weren't even murdering me because of anything I did! They were killing me because of my father! Didn't anyone see me for me? Didn't anyone care about me?
The flesh was pulled out of my mouth, but I soon felt hot liquid spurting on my face. I was humiliated. When my body was found, it would be clear that I had been raped? Would Butch and this man leave my dress and heels on to further my humiliation? I could see the headlines now: "Young boy found in an alley last night, covered with cum and wearing a dress." Would my father care that I had been killed or would he be more upset about losing the chance at a dynasty? He never cared about me up 'till now, so why would he care about me once I died?
Grabbing a handful of hair and pulling my head back, Butch leaned in to whisper into my ear. "I'll do you a favor, Mello. You hate being a boy? I'll fix that for you." He shoved my dress up and out of the way and yanked down my underwear, revealing my shameful body, the part that I had hated from the start. "Did you think I didn't notice? You were so careless, Mello. I tried to warn you, but you didn't get it. I heard you and that boyfriend of yours fucking, I heard your little confessional about hating your body. Hell, I even saw this dress. Did you think that I really put a GPS on your bag? I put one on your dress."
Matt. I began to cry earnestly. Even as I felt the white hot pain cutting through me and a new pain plunging into me, I couldn't pull my thoughts away from him. Even if I was completely stupid and selfish, I loved him. I still did. I hated that they were violating what I had held so precious, what I had offered willingly to only one person. To my Mattie who would hold me, who would kiss me, who would offer sweet nothings, who would say…
No, he never said those words to me. I realized that even though I proclaimed my love for him numerous times, Matt never said those words back to me. Three simple words, and he had never said them to me.
The mutilation was the worst, a searing pain that refused to dull. I couldn't even muster enough focus to watch my killers. My body had been ruined. I guess it was righteous justice or something like that. If I couldn't be happy with what God gave me, then it would be taken away from me. But not like this, I didn't want to be like this. I wanted to be a proper girl, not some emasculated and disfigured boy. A shadow fell over me and I felt a large hand roll me over onto my back. He forced my arms to be outstretched to either side and crossed my legs gently as if I were the new Christ.
"Goodnight," he whispered to me before pressing the hunting knife into my mouth. "It won't take you long to bleed out." With a jerk to the side, the soft flesh of my cheek split open. Repeating the process on the other side, Butch left me with a clown's smile. Such a sad smile.
Lying in a pool of my own blood and covered with the filth of others, I stared up at the night sky. My salty tears stung at the newest wounds, and every labored breath I took sent pain through my opened cheeks. I wanted to see one star, just one. Anything beautiful that I could stare at until the blood loss was too much for my body to handle. The gag had been removed, and even with the flesh of my cheeks ripped open I could have called for help. But I didn't. It would have been pointless and a waste of my last minutes.
There was nothing but the glare of streetlights in the distance and clouds.
"Firs-st…star I s…ee tonight…"
Not even a speck of happiness to give me peace.
"Wish I m-may, w-wish I…might…"
I still loved him. I couldn't lie to myself. Oh, Mattie…
"Have this wish I wish tonight."
"Why did you sleep with me? W-was I just some new c-conquest? Something that you could brag about? D-did it mean anything?"
"Please don't be like this. Please. It wasn't like that at all." This wasn't happening, this wasn't happening!
"No, no, I'm sorry. I wasted your time and money, sorry. I'll pay you back."
"Mello, please, I love you!" He was running away again, and I just stood there. What could I do? I mean, I could chase him all night, but what would that accomplish? "FUCK!!! MOTHERFUCKING SHIT!!"
A few people gave me strange stares, but I ignored them. How did such a perfect night turn out like this? It had all been going as planned, but then…Misa. Damn that girl! I knew that I shouldn't have gotten involved with her, but she looked so much like him! How could I resist?
Collapsing on the nearest bench, I ran a hand through my hair. I had actually combed it today. "Who am I kidding," I mumbled to myself. "I'm an idiot, and it's my fault that Mels ran away." If I had just told him the truth and been more open, things wouldn't have turned out like this.
Cradling my head in my palms, I couldn't help but think about the mess that I created. How long had I been in love with Mello? Fuck, it's been over ten years. From the moment I laid eyes on him, I knew that he was something special, that he was something to be treasured. I wanted to treasure him. Of course, one doesn't truly understand the concept of love in grade school. All I knew was that I wanted to be with him. Sure, his punching me in the face a few times put a little hiccup in our relationship, but I persisted. For years and years I forced myself into his personal bubble, forced him to accept me. He didn't even like me. Back then, things were simple; I didn't need anyone but Mello.
And then I had sisters. Not only that, but I learned all about faggots. I learned that it was wrong to have special feelings for guys and that normal boys had lots of friends and talked about girls. Being the fucking wimp I was, I made sure to do what all normal boys did. I got lots of friends and talked about girls. But…I didn't want Mello to see me like that. He was pure, unaffected by the crowds around him. Mello was aloof, somewhere far above the rest of us and I was embarrassed of showing him that horrible side of myself. I was scared that he wouldn't like me anymore. He was special and I treated him specially. He deserved nothing less than that.
Looking up dejectedly, I watched the people walking by carelessly. None of them would think anything of me sleeping around with girls. It would be expected that a young man my age do things like that, and that's what I kept telling myself with each girlfriend. I kept thinking that things would be okay, that it was no big deal. But any time they pushed to find out about Mello, I dumped them. All of them wanted to get more involved in my life, but I couldn't do that. What girl would want a guy who had to raise his five sisters and had a Mello complex? Besides, I was embarrassed to take them home. I wasn't stupid; I knew that the place smelt like shit and looked worse, but it was all I had.
Mello never judged me because of it. With his calm collected face, he would walk into the shit-hole of an apartment and carry on like normal. It was like those things didn't bother him at all. The older I got, the more I understood that my feelings for Mello were far from normal, so I just went through more girls. I guess I figured that the more girls I had, the less I would think about Mello. Boy was I wrong. I dated more and more blonds, more and more girls with small breasts and wide eyes. None of them ever had his beautiful eyes, but I could imagine that they did. And then there was Misa. If there was ever a girl that resembled Mello, it was her. Cut out her annoying talking and her ditzy attitude and she was pretty close. But the damn girl liked me too much, and I let our relationship go on too long.
And then it happened. Mello kissed me.
We moved things too quickly and I knew it. He wasn't ready and neither was I, but I let it move forward. I slept with him, took such an intimate part of him. It was what I wanted for so long, so I did it. The next day, I broke up with Misa, and hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. I should have known that she was going to show up and screw things up for me, but I was being naïve again. Our relationship was like a firecracker, and Misa was the one holding the match. It was bright and beautiful, but brief. Damn it, I didn't want it to end!
Tonight was when it was supposed to really start! I had to prove to myself that I really did love Mello and that I wasn't using him. I needed to do these things for him because it would make me feel better. What a selfish ass. If I had just accepted my feelings for him instead of trying to "prove" them, this wouldn't have happened. I would have been able to say "I love you" while we made love, I would have been confident enough to tell him about the past flings, and I wouldn't have let him run away from me.
"I'm such a stupid idiot."
Looking in the direction that Mello ran, I decided that I would give him a bit more time to cool off before I went after him. It wouldn't do any good to talk to him if he was still hysterical. Groaning, I headed towards a convenience store to buy a pack of cigarettes and some chocolate. If there was anything that could calm him down and at least get him to listen to me it would be the magic of chocolate.
With a cigarette in my mouth and the peace offering in the plastic sack in my hand, I made my way to the direction that he ran. His legs were probably sore from DDR so logic stated that he wouldn't have gotten too far. Unfortunately, he was nowhere to be seen. I walked back and forth along the area where he should have been, but there was no sight of him. I wondered if he had gone home, but that didn't seem likely. He would be too much of a mess to get back to his house.
Sitting down near the mouth of an alley, I took a moment to catch my breath. Being a smoker was no fun when lots of walking was required. Sighing unhappily, I watched as a giddy couple walked past. The girl was holding her boyfriend's arm tightly, and he was pulling her along happily. They were probably heading towards the seedy little hotel down the street. I couldn't help but think of Mello's accusation that our love making meant nothing to me. It hurt that he would think so low of me. Those intimate moments were precious to me and I was so scared of losing him and those moments. It was as if I actually admitted my feelings to him, I would jinx us and everything would break apart. If only I knew that not saying those words would have torn us apart, I would have taken the chance.
"Come on, Mels, where are you? I'm sorry already."
Looking up at the sky, I felt disappointed that all of the stars were hidden behind clouds and the glare of the streetlights. It looked blank up there, so I turned my attention back to my surroundings. That's when I really noticed the alleyway. It was dark and kind of creepy looking; the kind of place you'd find drug dealers or dumped bodies. Still, maybe he ran in there? Sidewalks were pretty public and Mello wouldn't want to be seen crying by so many people. It was pretty likely that he would have found somewhere to hide until he felt a little more in control. Gritting my teeth, I stepped into the alley and began my search.
I was sure that I would hear him sniffling way before I actually saw him, so I didn't pay any particular attention to the ground I was walking on. I was far more interested in keeping an eye on the entrances and exits of the alley; I didn't grow up in the ghetto without learning a thing or two about self-preservation. Walking through the maze of alleyways, I began to grow more and more uncomfortable. Surely Mello wouldn't have gone so far, it would be just plain stupid. A strange smell assaulted my nose and the deeper I wandered, the stronger it got. Wrinkling my nose, I tried to place that smell. It wasn't rotting garbage or even decomposing piss. It wasn't shit either, so what was it?
Getting creeped out, I was just about to turn around and get the hell out when my new dress shoes collided with something. With all the grace of a new-born giraffe, I fell over and face-planted into a puddle of cold water. Only…it wasn't water. Coughing, I could taste some of that shit in my mouth, and I froze when I recognized what it was.
Blood. Coagulating blood.
Breathing shallowly, I pulled my legs closer to my body and got ready to sprint away. After a few minutes, there was still no movement or sound. There was only me, and I was scared. I just wanted to get the hell out so that I could continue my search for Mello, but I needed to see my way out of here. Reaching a shaky hand into my pocket, I struggled to get my lighter out. Once the Zippo was at the ready, I gave it a good strong flick. Unfortunately, the damn thing was almost out of lighter fluid, so it didn't light up. It took a few good flicks before the flame burst into life. Sweeping the light downward, I was met with the most grisly sight I had ever seen in my young life.
The lighter fell to the ground to join my plastic bag and my screams echoed down the cold alleyways.
It had taken all of the money that I had been saving and then some, but I did it. I had paid for a small decent funeral.
Although it was open to any visitors, there were only two besides me. Once the news spread that Nicolai Keehl's son's body was found raped, mutilated, and in a dress, the gangs and mafia were thrown into chaos. Nicolai had the chance to disown his son, which he did, before he was killed off by an underling seeking fame. That was yesterday. Today, in the quiet chapel, there was only me, Professor Beyond, and his lover. I was borrowing a suit from my dad because the one that I had rented for prom night had been taken by the police for evidence.
I felt sick to my stomach as I watched Professor B pay his respects. He was pale and looked quite upset. It was the first time I had ever seen him look like that. In the four years that I had known him, he had never once looked so sad or troubled. His lover, Always, was right there besides him, rubbing his back and speaking comforting words. I wanted to puke.
Even though the funeral was modest, it was pretty nice. I spared no expense on getting Mello all cleaned up and covered. I wanted a closed casket, but I couldn't stand not seeing him. I needed to see his face, forever etched in pain. The police had to do an autopsy to record a cause of death, so I had to make sure to get a dress that covered up not only the mutilation, but the autopsy cuts as well. The color was white because he was pure. The people at this funeral home did well in preparing him. No one who walked in would have guessed that Mello was really a boy, and that's what I wanted. He hated being a boy and it would disrespect his memory to leave him to eternity looking like that, so I made him an angel. I made him the angel I always thought he was.
Off to the side, there were the flowers, beautiful white lilies to match his dress. I would have had a photo of him there, but I couldn't find one that would work. All the school photos didn't do him justice and the only photo I owned of him was the one that we took when he was putting on makeup. I couldn't associate that with his funeral. Wiping my eyes, I realized that I was crying. Ever since I found his body, I had been crying on and off. There was no end to it and the pain was gnawing away at my heart.
There was no music playing in the background, no fancy speeches.
I saw Beyond bury his face into his lover's neck and his shoulders shook as he cried.
The funeral attendant came to make sure that everything was okay. He seemed disturbed that only three people came to the funeral of a young woman who had been so brutally murdered.
I found myself in front of the casket, looking down into the face of my boyfriend. It wasn't fair that he died. I was going to apologize, I was going to fucking explain everything to him! I wanted to tell him how much I loved him, how much I wanted to hold him, to care for him. I wanted him. Now he's gone forever. No second chances. And nobody gave a fucking shit. Never again would he laugh and tease me, or yell and hit me. He wouldn't cry, curse, gloat, complain, joke, confide, whisper, love.
Even thought the makeup was practically flawless, I could still see the Glasgow smile that had been carved into his face as an afterthought. It was put there to mock his father, as if he were a billboard to send messages. There was no thought of him being a person who deserved to be happy and safe; he was just used and thrown aside. But I was just as guilty. I didn't take care of him. I had hurt him and caused him to run right into the arms of his murderers. If I had followed him I could have saved him. He would be alive. But I screwed up again, just like always.
It didn't register in my head as I became hysterical. I was holding my Mello, screaming and crying, but it didn't do anything. He didn't wake from the dead or come down from heaven to forgive me. His body just stayed there and left me to suffer. As long as I was alive, I'd suffer. I could never forget. Even if I should live long enough to get Alzheimer's, I'd go to the grave thinking of Mello, my Mello, and the fact that I didn't do enough for him. I hurt him and it cost him his life.
All because I wasn't honest. I was honest now, but it was too late.
A wonderful person.
You shall not be forgotten.
Today was graduation. I hadn't been able to recover from Mello's death, but the school was allowing me to graduate. Professor B talked to them and they agreed that up until prom night my grades had been satisfactory. Besides, anyone would be under stress if they had come across the body of their best friend. I never even stepped into school since that Wednesday.
"Mail?" It was my dad. He had that worried voice.
I was too tired to reply, so I didn't do anything. I just stayed in the safety of my covers where I had spent most of my time after the funeral. After they buried Mello, I stayed by the grave until I passed out from dehydration and exhaustion. The doctors made me stay home, but they couldn't force me to eat or drink. I'd been to the hospital four times since then, and they warned me that if I went in one more time, they'd send me to a mental institution. Fuck them.
"Listen, I know you're probably tired, but you need to go to graduation. Your professor worked hard to get the school to pass you."
"Why do you care?" I asked wearily. I wished that he would just go away already. I'd never seen so much of my parents in all my life and they were wearing me out.
He sat down at the foot of the bed and I could feel him staring at me. "Well, it's because…it's because you always wanted to graduate. You wanted to do better than me and your mother, and I want to see you succeed."
I spared him a glance. "You care all of a sudden? What the fuck?"
He looked down. "Mail, I know that I haven't been that great of a father. I've been living my life without any thought to you guys, and…well, I was wrong. I've retired from the band."
Hearing the words that I had been hoping for since I was four was sadly anticlimactic. "Whatever."
His shoulders slumped, but I didn't care. My parents didn't care shit about us until their son went off the deep end. It's too little, too late, by then. "I'm trying, Mail. I don't want you to lock yourself up like this. If you ever want to talk, I'm ready and willing to listen."
"Yes?" He tried to peek around my comforter at my face.
"I was in love with Mello. We made love a few times before…" I couldn't finish the statement.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see him straighten up and stare at me in bewilderment. I knew that my parents were homophobes, but I didn't give a shit. I wanted them to know that Mello meant the world to me, that he wasn't just a best friend. He was my lover.
Instead of hearing the speech that I was sure he was going to give, Dad just swallowed thickly and patted my leg. "Okay. That's okay." I shifted to stare at him in shock and he smiled weakly. "Mail, you're eighteen and more than mature enough to make your own decisions. If that includes…feeling that way towards Mello, I will be accepting of that. Hell, you've dealt with my shit all these years, I can handle this."
"I…I miss him," I whispered, the tears barely held back.
"And that's okay. But do you think that Mello would want you to waste away in your room? Would that make him happy?"
Pulling my pillow over my head, I began to cry all over again. It was exhausting, but I couldn't help it. My dad just patted my leg and stood up. We both knew that there was no way that I could really trust him yet or treat him like a dad, but maybe this was kind of like a good start. I could respect him a little more because he accepted my feelings for Mello. He wasn't happy about them, but he sucked it up. If I still wasn't so hurt, I would have been impressed.
"I'll tell your mom to make some soup," he added at the doorway. "You'll need something in you if you're going to make it down that aisle."
There were a bunch of screaming students and clicking cameras, but none of that mattered to me. All that mattered was the aisle and the small paper I would get at the end of it. It seemed like only yesterday that Mello and I were talking about being the first in our families to graduate. By no fault of his own, he didn't make it, but here I was. I told him that I would be better than my parents, and here I was doing it.
Each step was an effort. It was worse than the effort it took to get dressed or to put the stupid robe and cap on right. It was even worse than sitting through the ridiculous ceremony. If I kept walking, then I would have to move forward. If I graduated, that meant that I would have to acknowledge that I needed to move on. I didn't want to move away from Mello.
The assembly grew quiet as I came to a stop in front of the stage and froze. This was the very thing that I had dreamed of a few weeks ago, and now it was the last thing that I wanted to do. I didn't want to move on. It would be the same as forgetting him, and I promised that I would never forget. How was I supposed to live without him? I had known and loved him since kindergarten. How does one handle losing that much of themselves?
A hand took a hold of my wrist, and for a brief moment I dared to hope that it was Mello. Professor B looked down at me and slowly led me up the steps. I was unable to refuse his silent request. He had been the closest thing to a father to both me and Mello, and now he was asking me to take those steps.
"Moving forward doesn't mean forgetting," he whispered as we approached the principal. "It means finding new ways of remembering."
Never letting go of his hand, I accepted my diploma and passed the stage.
Seven years later…
A young student was standing in front of my desk. There was a fresh set of bruises on his porcelain skin and his curly white hair was being anxiously tugged by his fingers. I couldn't help but smile at him. "Good morning, Near. Had a rough morning?"
He nodded shyly. "We got into another argument."
Setting down my pen, I leaned back in my chair and motioned for him to take a seat. "Your parents are pretty stubborn aren't they?"
"Yes, they are. They threw away my new pink socks."
I rolled my eyes. People could be so stupid sometimes. It's been years since my senior year of high school and I was now a high school councilor who specialized in helping homosexual and bisexual students come out and become proud of themselves. I had become somewhat a protector of those students, even going so far as to walk some of the more picked on students to their classes. Having worked at this high school for a few years already, my reputation was set and most of the students respect me. The hate crimes against homosexuals and bisexuals in this high school had decreased quite a bit and tolerance was now the rule rather than the exception. Mostly, it was dealing with parents now.
"How about this? I'll buy you another pair, and you can just leave them here at school to use whenever you'd like."
He smile cutely and blushed. "You don't need to bother yourself like that, Mr. Jeevas."
"I insist, really."
He nodded. "Thank you."
"No problem. Will you be okay walking to class today?"
Another nod. "I believe that I will be okay. Thank you for looking out for me."
I smiled. "It's my job! But no worries, I love doing it."
"Mr. Jeevas, you can…well, if it doesn't bother you, I'd like it if…you called me 'Nate'." After having said that, the poor boy turned a brilliant shade of pink.
Reaching over, I patted his head. "Okay, Nate."
I knew that Nate River had kind of a crush on me, but I was sure that it would pass. A lot of students, especially those struggling with their sexuality, would confuse their respect and their liking me as being a crush. I was more like a big brother, and they usually came around soon enough. Nate had been a little more persistent in his crush, but I didn't worry too much. There was a certain upperclassman who had an eye on young Nate and I wouldn't be surprised if he made a move soon.
Nate caught me glancing at the pictures on my desk. There was a photo of the first set of students that I counseled graduating, and the years after that. There was a photo of my old Professor B and his long-time lover at their new home in the English countryside; much like me he couldn't stay in the city that carried such heavy memories. There was a picture of my family at one of my sister's wedding. However, in the front and center of all those photos was the one that I treasured the most. Mello's head resting on my shoulder and the both of us smiling into the camera.
"She's so pretty," Nate grumbled jealously.
I snorted. "Of course she is. She's my girlfriend."
"That's faulty logic!" he argued. "It is accurate to state that she is your girlfriend because of her looks, but you can't say that she has good looks because of her being your girlfriend. People's looks don't change like that!"
"I think you're just jealous."
He turned pink and looked down. "Am not."
Reaching over, I stroked the picture. "Well, you better get to class!"
I may still be alive while Mello is not, but Professor Beyond was right. Moving forward didn't mean that I had to forget her. She was precious to me, even when she was he. I finally decided a few years back that I would never call Mello a him again; she had never been that. When anyone saw her picture they always saw a girl, and that's how I wanted it.
That's how Mello wanted it.
I loved her, and that would never change. Yes, I still had nightmares, and I cried so much, but that didn't weaken my feelings. If anything, it only strengthened them. Sometimes, I would try to convince myself that once I died we would meet again, but it would work out this time. She would be everything that she wanted to be, and I would be deserving of her.
Left by myself in my cold office, I spun around in my chair slowly, letting my eyes close.
"Dancing bears…painted wings…things I'll always remember…"