Disclaimer: I own nothing.
'When it is darkest, men see the stars' – Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Well I suppose a fuck's now out of the question!"
Felicia was running before the beer had finished soaking into the sand. Men. Well, can't say I didn't try. What a laugh. Don't know what they're missing! She could hear their footsteps behind her. Oh? What's this? So they do want me tonight! "Come on boys! Who wants to see a map of my Tasmania!"
Felicia could hear the footsteps behind her getting louder. They aren't stopping… shit, why aren't they stopping? Her feet were on fire. Sprinting in heels is not the best way to make a quick get-away. Just keep running, Felicia. Fuck! Where the hell am I? She turned a corner, and found herself against a solid wall. Oh shit…
"Ok fellas, let's not forget how to treat a lady." All of a sudden, Adam found himself on the ground, clutching his jaw. Before he knew what was happening, a sudden pain erupted in his side as Frank's foot connected with his ribs.
"You fucking freak! Hold him down, spread his legs." Frank's goons grabbed Adam's arms and legs. His skin burned under their relentless grip. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit! What the fuck do I do? He was terrified, and needed to get out of this situation. Only one idea came to mind. Beg.
"No, please!" It was then that he heard the most glorious sound.
"Frank stop!" Bob! Oh thank god, Bob. "Stop! What the fuck do you think you're doing!" Please Bob, get them off me, please! Frank's confused face glared at Bob's angry expression. "You mean you do know this cock sucker?"
Bob walked right past Frank, and right at the bastards holding Adam down. "Get off him, you mongrel! He was joking, ok? Now you leave the little bugger alone." The men released their hold of Adam, and Bob's easy hand replaced it.
"Get outta there Bob." Please Bob, make him go away.
"Cut it out, Frank." Ya, Frank. Listen to Bob.
"Put the faggot down, and get the fuck outta there Bob, or you'll be next." Oh shit, shit! Not Bob too. What then hell have I done? Listen to him, Bob, don't get yourself killed too…
"Get outta there!" The last thing Adam thought was that they were both dead.
"Stop flexing your muscles you big pile of budgie turd!" Bernadette? "I'm sure your mates would be much more impressed if you just go back to the pub and fuck a couple of pigs on the bar." Oh good, now we're all dead. Thanks, Bernice. Bob seemed to agree with Adam's thoughts. "Bernadette, please." He didn't want her here either, but she seemed to grab Frank's attention.
"Bernadette? Well I'll be darned! The whole circus is in town! Well I suppose you want a fuck too, do ya? Come on Bernadette. Come on and fuck me." Bernadette slowly approached Frank. Adam could feel Bob tensing. Neither knew what was about to happen. "That's it. Come on. Come on and fuck me." Adam wanted it to stop. Please, Bernadette. Just get out of here! "Come on, fuck me!"
Frank never saw it coming. Bernadette delivered two swift hits, and Frank went down and didn't get up.
"There, now you're fucked."
"Jesus Christ," Bob mumbled to himself as he stood up, letting go of Adam. "Go on, get out of here, you dogs! All of you." He gave one a not so gentle push, and with a point to Frank, who still had not moved, he said, "And take him with you." Bob found himself next to Bernadette, and once Frank and his boys had cleared the area, they turned to check on Adam together. Bob leaned back down to help Adam up. "Come on, let's get you out of-"
"Don't touch me!" Bob backed off immediately. Bernadette put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, and planned to step in, but Tick beat her to it. "Adam? Adam we can't stay here." He approached carefully, with his hands up, trying to show Adam he wouldn't hurt him. "Adam, please." Adam looked up slowly, and reluctantly nodded at Tick. Bernadette moved in to help him up, and both her and Tick saw the grimace of pain on Adam's face as he stood. They each took one arm, and guided Adam out of the yard with Bob in the lead.
"It's not to far back to the bus, at least," said Bob. Tick, nodding in agreement, said, "Yes, let's just get out of here before Frank and his friends change their minds and come back."
By the time they had made the fifteen minute walk back to their hotel room, Adam's skin had gone a sickly ashen-grey color and was cold to the touch. Bernadette noticed his face was already starting to swell, so she said to Tick, "Stay with him. I'm going to see if I can't find some gauze or something," as she walked out to check the bus. Next time we go on a road trip, we should pack a little more practically. Less booze, more supplies. Oh well. This will have to do.
As she stepped out of Priscilla, she noticed Bob sulking in the shadows. "There was no gauze about. I managed to dig up some of this. At least we're half way to a martini."
Bob smirked at that, but his face turned serious again immediately. "Look I'm sorry. I should have stepped in earlier. Christ he was just standing there asking for it."
"How unusual. Bob, you did fine. Thanks. Now please, go in the bus and lay down. There's nothing you can do now. It's time for Auntie Bernice to pick up some pieces."
Bob hesitated, "You sure?" Smiling, Bernadette answered, "Positive. Go," and she turned to head back into the room with a small bowl of ice.
I think we need to lighten the mood a little in here. "I couldn't find any salt to rub into those wounds, so we'll have to make due with ice."
"Drop dead," was the only response from Adam. So much for lightening the mood. Adams attitude did nothing for Tick's mood either.
"Oh that's charming talk to the woman that just saved your life. If I'd been alone out there with you tonight they'd be taking us both home in boxes." The only response from Adam this time was a sniffle.
"Oh, don't use that hanky," Tick said, as he ripped it from Adam's hands. "Here, use some toilet paper you stupid little shit. Look here."
Tick was actually starting to feel bad for Adam as he tried to wipe away the smeared mascara from his face. Until he took a look at those red puffy eyes. "Your pupils are the size of beach balls." The little shit. He wouldn't, would he? I thought we dealt with this before we even left Sydney! "I knew it! I knew it! You just couldn't help yourself, could you! Eh?" Tick stood up, knowing he was about to make Adam feel a lot worse, but it was definitely going to make himself feel a lot better. "Alright, where are they? Come on, where are the drugs? You've just been asking and asking and asking for this. And now are you happy?"
Tick couldn't take it and he stormed out of the room to get some air. He could hear Adam's sobs before he was out the door, but he wasn't able to stop himself. Bernadette, who had sat quietly through the entire encounter, took a deep breath and moved herself over to the bed that Adam was occupying. Auntie Bernice to the rescue. "It's funny, we all sit around mindlessly slagging off that vile, stink hole of a city. But in some strange way it takes care of us. I don't know if their ugly wall of suburbia has been put there to stop them getting in, or us getting out." Adam's sobs didn't stop. Bernadette moved to put her arm around Adam's shoulder.
"Come on, don't let it drag you down. Let it toughen you up. I can only fight because I've learned to. Being a man one day and a woman the next isn't an easy thing to do." Adam broke down, he couldn't hold it in anymore. "Come here, you're alright. Everything's alright. Just let it out." Bernadette just held Adam and let him cry it out. He needed this. My shirt is ruined now, but he'll make up for it at some point, I'm sure. She just continued to rub circles on him back until his sobbing subsided. He's still ice cold to the touch. Let's see if I can't get him out of that god forsaken dress.
"Ok Adam, lets get you cleaned up, and into something a little more comfortable, hm?" Adam nodded slightly, and allowed himself to be guided to the bathroom where Bernadette sat him down on the toilet. She turned the shower on, and turned to Adam, "Will you be alright in here on your own?" Getting no response, she continued, "Alright then. Get in while it's still hot. I'll grab you an extra towel."
When Bernadette got back to the bathroom, Adam was out of the shower, and had a towel wrapped around his waist. She was stopped in her tracks by the shades of purple that were already forming on Adam's left side. "Oh, Adam. They got a few more hits in then you let on, didn't they?"
Adam replied, "M'fine," as he looked away and was suddenly fascinated with his toes.
"Yes, yes of course. I'll just be outside." Bernadette laid the towel on the sink and excused herself. As soon as the door was closed behind her, she could hear another wave of muffled tears from inside. Oh Adam, what are we going to do with you?
Bernadette sat on the bed to wait for Adam to finish. She had no intention of rushing him, knowing it would do nothing to help the situation after Tick had exploded at him. Not that I blame him. Drugs of all things, the stupid little rat. Where has Mitzi gone off to anyway? She didn't have time to think of the answer as Adam emerged from the bathroom, one towel around his waist, one over his shoulders. Bernice tried to see through the bruises and asked, "Are you hungry at all? I know you missed dinner."
"No. M'ok." I don't believe you. But I won't fight you, yet. "You should try and sleep then, you've had an eventful evening to say the least." We all have.
"M'not really tired." Bernadette really didn't believe that either. Adam looked like he was about to drop. Too bad sweetheart, you need to sleep. "You will be once you lay down. Humour me. You can even have one of the beds tonight. Alright?" Adam reluctantly nodded, slipped on some underwear, and moved toward the bed. Bernadette turned out the lights except for one and sat down on the other bed pretending to read a book while she waited to make sure Adam would sleep. Once his breathing evened out and his eyes were closed, she quietly left the room.
Bernadette noticed the lights were still on in Priscilla, and someone was sitting on the steps. "Bob? I thought you would already be asleep."
"I know. I couldn't seem to nod off. I still feel bad about earlier. Is he ok?"
"Don't feel bad at all, Bob. None of this was your fault. Adam will be fine, I promise. He's banged up a bit, but nothing time won't fix." Bob didn't look reassured, but nodded in agreement. "Now please Bob, get some rest. It's been a long night for all of us."
Standing, Bob replied, "Alright, goodnight then."
"Goodnight Bob." Bernadette watched him climb into the bus, waited for the lights to go off, and turned to go back into the room to get some sleep herself. She was surprised to see Tick standing behind her, looking just as angry as when he left.
"Well, where is he?"
"He's asleep," Bernadette sat down on the curb and motioned for Tick to do the same. "He didn't want to go, but once I made him lie down he couldn't fight it anymore. He was exhausted."
"Well, we all are. The stupid shit. What the hell was he thinking?"
"I don't really think he was."
Tick began wringing his hands together in frustration. "Well that much is obvious. 'I'll just get high off my ass and wonder off by myself in a dress'. Bloody idiot. He could have been killed! I mean, what if-"
"There's no point in thinking of all the "what if's". We were there, we all got out, and we're all here safe and sound."
"Well yes, but Bob-"
"Bob did the right thing," Bernadette retorted. The frustration was growing in her voice. "I'm actually amazed he stepped in at all. It was a big risk. Can you say you would do the same if you had been in his shoes?" She glared at Tick accusingly, waiting for a smart reply.
"I have no idea. I've never been in a position anywhere close to that before tonight." Tick lowered his head into his hands, exasperated.
"Exactly. Just be grateful it turned out the way it did." Adam feels horrible enough, we don't need to go making it worse. "You need to remember, Adam has never been out of Sydney. He's been relatively sheltered, as much as a drag queen can be."
"That's no excuse. We all told him to stay put. He should have listened. He should have just come to dinner with us."
"Maybe you're right. But he didn't, and now he knows he was wrong. I think Adam learned something tonight. What, I'm not exactly sure."
Tick, unable to sit still any longer, stood up and started pacing. "Little shit didn't learn anything. He didn't get hit hard enough to get anything through his thick skull!"
"Oh calm down. He got hit harder than you think." That made Tick's pacing stop. What is she talking about? Bernadette, ignoring his questioning glare, continued, "Believe it or not, he does feel bad about tonight. Just take it easy on him. There's no reason to make him feel worse than he does."
Tick continued to protest as he sat back down, "But-"
"Just look on the bright side – maybe Felicia will shut up for a day or two." That managed to get a small chuckle out of Mitzi. And they sat together for a few minutes in silence.
Tick sat, going over what happened that night, and what Bernadette had told him. Shit, I think I'm actually feeling guilty for yelling at the little rat. "Was I wrong? To yell at him like that?"
Bernadette sighed. "Maybe. Although he probably needed to hear it from someone, and better you than me." The pair fell into another silence, broken once again by Tick.
He sighed, and asked, "Think he's ok?"
Bernadette paused for a moment before answering, "Are any of us really ok?"
"You know what I meant."
"Yes, I know." Another pause and then, "Adam is tougher than he looks. He'll be alright. Eventually." Bernadette could tell that Tick was still upset, but at least he was processing the night's events a little more. We won't get any farther on this subject tonight. It's done, thought Bernadette. "Come along then. We should try and get some sleep, too."
Tick nodded in agreement, and replied, "You go on inside. I'm gonna stay on the bus for tonight."
"Ya, I'll give Adam some space. See how he's doing in the morning."
"Alright then. See you in the morning."
Tick nodded, and turned to get onto Priscilla. Bernadette waiting until he was out of sight, and moved to head back to the room, and Adam.
Bernice was reassured when she saw Adam, still fast asleep. Good. He needs the rest. Then again, so do I. She moved into the bathroom to get herself ready for bed. She came back out, turned the last lamp out, and crawled in between the sheets. Finally, some peace and-
"Bernadette?" Why do I even bother trying? I thought Adam was sleeping.
"Yes, Adam." The lights were off, so Bernice couldn't see him, but she could hear him shuffling around on the sheets.
"I'm… M'sorry. For, well, everything."
Oh, Adam. "Don't be silly. There's nothing to be sorry for love."
"M'still sorry. And… thank you…"
There you go sweetheart. "Goodnight Adam." There was no further reply, but she could hear him rolling over. Now please, let there be no more interruptions. I need my beauty sleep.
The next morning, Tick woke up to the sound of someone shuffling around on Priscilla. He opened his eyes to see Bob putting his shoes on.
As he sat up, Bob said, "Sorry, I hope I didn't wake you."
Tick swung his legs over the side of his bed, and answered, "No, no it's fine. We should all be getting up anyway. We should get out here as quick as we can."
"Ya, that's for sure," Bob answered with a little laugh in his voice.
"Any sign of Bernadette yet?"
"No, I think she's still sleeping. I was gonna see if I couldn't find something for us for breakfast so we could eat and run."
"That sounds like a plan to me. I'll go wake her up then." Tick stood to head off the bus, and turned to Bob once more and said, "Um, Bob? Thank you, again, for last night. And I'm sorry about Adam getting you into trouble."
"Nah, no trouble. Don't even worry about it."
"Right. Alright then. I'll go get the others. We'll meet you back at the bus as quick as we can."
Tick walked into the room, but Bernadette's bed was empty. He could hear the shower running, and decided to wait for her. But when he looked over at Adam, his jaw dropped. Adam was lying flat out on his back, the blankets kicked off during the night. But what Tick couldn't stop staring at was the shades of purple now starting to really show on Adam's skin. I thought he just took one to the jaw. What the hell? Adam's jaw was swollen and bruised, which Tick was expecting. What he didn't think he would see was the finger shaped bruises on Adam's arms and thighs, as well as mottled shades of purple on his left ribs.
"Weren't expecting that, were you?" Tick jumped at the sound of Bernadette's voice. He hadn't even heard her come out of the bathroom.
"I…I didn't know. I mean, Jesus Christ…"
Bernadette moved her fingers to her lips, "Shh… I know. He didn't say anything. It looks worse than it is." She put a reassuring hand on Tick's shoulder. "Are you ready to head out yet?"
Tick, still unable to tear his eyes away from Adam, answered, "I was just coming to wake you. I wanted to try and grab a shower while we still had the chance."
"It's all yours. Jump in now." Tick looked to Bernadette, and then right back to Adam. "Don't worry about him, I'll get Adam up and ready while you're in there."
"Right. Sounds good." Tick went into the bathroom and closed the door. He was enjoying his hot shower, but he knew he couldn't stay in there much longer. They needed to head out. Reluctantly, he turned the water off and dried himself off. When he stepped out of the bathroom, all the bags were packed, Adam was gone, and Bernadette was sitting on the bed.
She smiled at Tick and said, "We're all set. Come on, let's get out of here."
As they walked out to the bus, Bob was already waiting in the driver seat. As Tick walked up the stairs, he could see Adam sitting at the back window. They made eye contact when Tick moved to the back to drop off the bags, but Adam quickly refocused his gaze out the window. Tick just sighed and made his way back toward the front of the bus.
Bob started Priscilla and said, "Everyone set? Alright then, let's see if I can't get you girls a new gas tank." He put the bus in gear, and they pulled out onto the road. Not two minutes later, they stopped at what appeared to be a scrap yard, and Bob stepped out to speak to someone about some spare parts. From the appearance of his conversation, they were not going to have any luck.
As he climbed back in to the bus, Tick asked, "Well, are we bunny hopping all the way to Alice?"
"No good. But he says the man to help is a fair way out of town."
Bernadette did not look pleased. "Like how fair?"
"A couple hundred clicks fair. No matter. I got nothing else to do today. Let's get out of here. Come on Adam!" Bernadette and Tick were both looking toward the back of the bus, where Adam just continued to stare out the back window. They looked at each other, and then made themselves comfortable for the trip.
An hour into the drive, and Adam was still sitting by the window. He wasn't feeling much better than he did last night. He was grumpy, and he still ached all over. Just then, Priscilla hit a large bump in the road. Fuck! That Hurts! He brought his arm around to hold his ribs. I just wanted a little fun. I never meant for this to happen. I'm sorry, ok? His ribs were hurting more than the night before, and the jarring motion of the bus was not helping his situation. All morning he had been sitting there with nothing to do but lick his wounds, and try to keep the memories at bay.
It wasn't working. His memories were flooding back. Every person who had said any derogatory comment at him came rushing back all at once. Stupid…queer… faggot…fairy… freak… He thought he could stop the memories, but then he started thinking of his father and his eyes started to water. Shit… I need to get out of here. I can't let them see me cry again. He got up, deciding his 'bed' would be the best place for himself right now. He climbed in, and closed the lid behind him.
Unbeknownst to Adam, Tick and Bernadette had been watching him. They saw him move from his position at the back of the bus. Bernice glared over at Tick, willing him to do something. Tick, sighing, said, "Oh, alright. Don't look at me like that. I'm going. I'm going."
Adam barely had enough time to slow his breathing and wipe his eyes, when the dark was flooded with light from someone opening the lid. To his dismay, Adam realized it was Tick standing above him. Tick, realizing that he was the last person Adam would want to see, sat down anyway.
"Some things are said in the heat of the moment." That doesn't make them any less true though, don't you forget it Felicia. "I'm sorry I got angry with you last night. Although I dare say you deserved it." Tick could tell that he wasn't going to get anywhere by continuing to get upset with Adam. "But that's enough of that."
Adam was still unresponsive to Tick's attempt to make conversation. I guess I'll have to go to plan B. "You know this is quite an experience sitting here with you now. I can quite safely say that I think your taste in clothing is absolutely terrible because you can't say a word, can you?" At that, Tick managed to get an unimpressed eye roll, but not much else. "Oh this is great fun!"
Tick's attempts to patch things up with Adam were not going as well as he had hoped, but at that moment, Priscilla hit yet another large bump. Tick saw Adam wince, but decided not to say anything. Little brat. I didn't think it was possible to be mad at you and feel sorry for you all at once, thought Tick. Enough of this. "You ready to stop moping yet?" Adam, clearly not prepared to speak yet, only rolled his eyes yet again. "Well fine then. Stay in here. I don't care. It's quieter without Felicia's yapping anyway."
At that, Tick closed the lid, and left Adam to rejoin Bob and Bernadette at the front of the bus.
Adam, now alone in his box in the dark, rolled over onto his right side. What does Mitzi know about taste anyway? The bus hit another rough patch of road, causing Adam to curse once again. Shit! Can't they learn to drive? Are they trying to kill me or what? Now that he was alone, no matter how much Adam tried to distract himself by getting angry at the other people on the bus, he couldn't stop the memories. He couldn't remember exactly when Felicia came into his life. It was some time after his father left him and his mother. Adam was a hurt, quiet little boy with no father figure. Felicia allowed him to be outgoing, bold, and even obnoxious to anyone and everyone. She became his security blanket, and no matter what anyone said or did, it would bounce off of Felicia's hard exterior, keeping Adam safe. Well, except the fists didn't exactly bounce. Fuck! Adam couldn't think anymore, and fell into a light and restless sleep.
Adam next woke up when the vibrations of Priscilla's engines ceased. We stopped? Where? He thought. He lifted the lid to his bed, and poked his head out, only to be greeted by Bernadette. "There you are. I was just about to check and see if you had died in there," he said as she tossed him a cover up. "Put that on and come on outside and have some supper. You haven't eaten since yesterday."
Adam couldn't argue with her on that one. He was just starting to realize how hungry he was. He followed Bernadette out of the bus and sat down near the fire to eat. Turns out, you can't eat much after you've been punched in the face. Adam was struggling to chew his food, but forced down as much as he could. Although he was concentrating hard on eating, he still managed to half listen to the conversation between his other three companions around the fire. He tuned in somewhere during Bob's recollection of how he met his wife. Trying to be social, he commented, "Couldn't you sell her off?"
Not missing a beat, Bernadette replied, "Oh, the party's over everyone. It talks. You can't keep a good bitch down." Rolling his eyes, Adam looked away from the group. Ha ha Bernice, but that was all Adam. She's not here right now. So much for trying to be social. Still only half listening to what the others were talking about, Adam couldn't help but laugh at the idea of Mitzi being married. Ha, Mitzi's wife. There's a joke and a half. His smirk didn't get past Tick though.
"I saw that smile Felicia. One word, one derogatory word and I'm gonna take you back to your mate in Coober Pedy." That was a low blow, Mitzi. Even for you. And you wanted me to stop moping? Ya right. Not two minutes later, Mitzi was addressing Adam again. "Come along, Adam. Time for your beauty sleep." Groaning, Adam got up to follow Tick onto the bus. "Come on!" Beauty sleep? I've been sleeping all day.
As soon as they were up the stairs, Adam couldn't stop himself from complaining. "M'not even tired."
"Of course you're not, you slept all day on the bus. Trust me, this is worth it. Come here and take a look!" As they stared out the window together at Bob and Bernadette, Adam couldn't hold back his giggles. Oh, this is definitely worth it! Unfortunately, whatever Adam was standing on gave way, and he fell to the bus floor with a cry of, "Oh shit!"
Picking himself back up, Mitzi couldn't hold her tongue. "Nice going. Our cover is blown. Guess we have nothing else to do but go to bed now, don't we? Come on then."
"M'still not tired."
"Well I am. I'm going to sleep, so keep it down." Protesting the early hour, Adam answered, "On, come on Mitz. It's not that late."
"Late enough. Some of us actually had to drive the bus today. And you think I wanna look at your ugly mug all night? Just look at you."
"Oh, very funny Mitz."
"I'm dead serious Felicia. Have you even looked at yourself?"
"Oh, shut up! I don't need this," replied Adam, not willing to go through this all yet again. But Mitzi was just getting started.
"Well Jesus Christ! Someone needs to set you straight. You just can't go around doing that shit! You could have gotten yourself killed! You're damn lucky we showed up when we did."
"I know! Alright? I get it." Adam started to stand to leave and run from the truth, but Tick's firm hand on his stopped him.
"See, that's the problem, Felicia, I don't think you do. You push and push and push people. And most of the time, it keeps you safe, am I right? Hurt them before they hurt you, right? That's why you've developed that sharp tongue of yours. Felicia keeps Adam safe?"
Adam was speechless. Fuck, how does he know this shit? He couldn't understand how anyone else had made that connection. Tick took advantage of the stunned silence from Adam and continued, "But you know what? This time, she did the exact opposite, Adam. She got you into a lot of trouble." That last comment got his attention. Adam shook out of Tick's grip and stood.
"You know what Mitz? I'm done with this. Just shut up and go to sleep." With that, Adam turned to go back to his spot by the back window of Priscilla.
"Ya, ya fine. Wake me and you're dead." With that, the conversation ended, and Mitzi crawled into bed.
Adam, unfortunately, was not able to sleep. He sat alone at the back of Priscilla, curled up under a blanket. Now that there was nothing left to distract him, his mind wandered back to what he had been avoiding thinking of since that afternoon – his father. He recalled a comment Bernadette had made the day after they had set out – It's no wonder his father left. He probably took one look at him and ran the other way. Adam couldn't help but think she was right. His father was a businessman of some kind. Adam never really knew what it was he did, but his father was never around much when Adam was young. And when he was home, he might as well not have been there. Adam would try to get his father's attention, and do things he thought his father would approve of, but nothing seemed to work. Adam knew he was different from a young age, and the other children seemed to know it too with the way they avoided him. So he found himself spending most of his time with his mother.
It was yet another topic that his mother and father would argue about. And argue they did. Most of Adam's memories of his father were of his fights with his mother. Sometimes they were grateful when he would leave for weeks at a time. But, even though his father was not an affectionate man, Adam found himself missing him when he was gone. He couldn't help it. What son doesn't want to gain the approval and affection of the most important male role model in his life? But it never happened. His father disproved of Adam spending so much time with his mother and her friends instead of out with other boys his age, doing things young boys should be doing. But Adam didn't give up. He would ask his father to take him fishing, teach him to play sports, anything at all while his father was home. But there never seemed to be time in Mr. Whitley's schedule for his only child.
Adam could vividly recall the day his father left. He wasn't expected home from another business trip for at least a few more days, and Adam's mother was putting on her makeup, preparing for her book club meeting when the phone rang. Adam was left alone in her room, and curiosity got the best of him. There were so many colors, and he had seen his mother do it before, so how hard could it be? The next thing he could remember was running downstairs to show his mother, only to run right into his father, who had come home early.
Adam had seen him father angry before, on multiple occasions. But this expression was different. His father was absolutely appalled. His face screamed disgust at his son. No words were said, they just stood there staring at each other for what seemed like hours. Adam could hear his mother telling him to go up to his room, not even realizing she had been there. He did what she said, and ran as fast as he could back up the stairs. When his mother finally came up after him, her eyes were red and swollen and Adam could tell she had been crying. Unable to stop himself, Adam started crying too. His mother held him, and wiped the makeup off his face. And Adam knew then neither of them would ever see his father again. It's no wonder his father left. He probably took one look at him and ran the other way. Bernadette couldn't have been more correct. Adam's father did run the other way, and it was entirely his fault.
Adam had broken out into a sweat sitting at the back of the bus, and while his skin was hot to the touch he couldn't stop shivering. It was impossible for him to stop the tears this time. I need to get out of here, now. He started to stand to make a break for the door, but got tangled in the oversized blanket around him and fell abruptly to the bus floor.
In all his efforts to stay quiet, the thud was loud enough to rouse Tick from his light sleep. What the hell was that? Sitting up in bed, Tick looked around only to find the noise to have come from the back of the bus. Little shit! I told him to shut up!
"Adam, I told you to be quiet. You bloody well woke me up." After getting no response, Tick got up to move to the back of the bus. "Adam? What the hell are you-" Oh shit. Tick knew right away that something was not right. Adam was on the floor with his knees curled into his chest, and Tick could clearly hear his heavy breathing.
Tick knelt down next to Adam, hoping to calm him down and find out what was happening. Like he had done the night before, he held his hands up to show he was no threat. "Adam? Adam? Hey, you're alright. Adam it's – shit your burning up under that blanket, come on and-"
"Just go away! Don't touch me, just leave me alone!" Adam tried to brush Tick aside, but it was a feeble attempt.
"Hey, Adam! It's me, it's Tick. Come on Adam, look at me." Adam's head slowly lifted out of the blanket and made eye contact with Tick.
"Mitz?" Adam's eyes were glassy looking and unfocused. Shit, Adam. What the hell am I supposed to do with you? Tick just sat down beside Adam, preparing himself for whatever might happen next. The two sat in silence for a few moments while Adam continued to sniffle, and Tick decided to try and break the ice.
"You're boiling under that blanket. You should take it off."
"Am not, I'm freezing." So much for breaking the ice. I can't say anything right to him it seems. They sat there for a short while longer. "You wanna talk about it?"
"Not really." Fucking memories. You just can't run from them, dammit. Why did Mitzi even have to get up?
"It might make you feel better." Again, they continued to sit. Tick wasn't about to push Adam, but be there if he needed it. I screwed up with him last night, even earlier today. I don't want a repeat. Bernadette was wrong, it's just as bad as it looks. Adam sighed deeply.
"Just… was thinking about… bout my dad. You know, when he left mum and me. And you tell yourself it doesn't matter and I didn't need him and that it all bounces off you and you're fine. But does it really? I mean, last night, and I just, aw fuck it all. I just – can't-" Adam was cut off by is own crying. He couldn't string his thoughts together. Tick reached over and wrapped Adam up into his arms.
"Hey, hey it's alright. Com here darling. You're alright. That's it, shhh." Tick just held Adam and let him cry. He stroked his hand through Adam's hair and continued to hold him close. If this is what he needs, then who am I to say otherwise? He probably hasn't let any of this out since he was a kid. He needs to know he isn't alone.
"I was 23. I though t I was invincible. I could do what I wanted, when I wanted, and who I wanted. They cornered me in an alley after I had left the club one night. I ended up in the hospital for a few days. And you know, the bruises fade and the bones heal, but not all scars show on the outside. Those are the consequences of our choices. We have to accept them." Adam said nothing. He really didn't know what to say. The two of them continued to sit there in each others company.
"Mitz? Does it… does it ever really get better?" Tick didn't know what to say to that. Looking at himself, could he really say that things had gotten better? Sometimes he wasn't so sure. But he knew he wasn't alone, at least.
"You'll never forget it, that's for sure. But eventually, it hurts less and less, and you learn to move on." Tick's words didn't seem to encourage Adam in the slightest, so he continued, "Come on darling, you're tougher than you look. No one can keep the amazing Felicia down, right?" That managed to get a snort of laughter from Adam.
"See? That's exactly what I thought. The three of us, we just gotta stick together." Adam nodded slightly, seeming to agree. Tick thought he might have even seen the hint of a smile on his face, but then again it could have just been the swollen jaw.
"Come on, Felicia. We should get some sleep. Just think how pissed Bernadette will be in the morning if we're both tired and cranky." Adam couldn't argue with that, and so they both climbed into bed to try and get a few hours of sleep before the sun came up.
Just before the lid to Adam's bed closed, Tick heard, "Mitz? Thank you." And this time, he knew that there was a genuine smile on both of their faces.
Tick woke up to the feeling of the sun on his face. As he moved to get out of bed, he noticed that Bernadette's cot had not been slept in. Giddy, he quickly opened the lid to Adam's bed.
"What?" came the groggy reply.
"Guess who didn't come home last night?" Together they both looked out the window to see Bob and Bernadette asleep by the fire, and poor Bernice had wound up using her cake like a pillow. The two climbed down the steps of the bus and walked towards the remains of the campfire.
"I've waited my whole life for this – Bernice has left her cake out in the rain!" Adam and Tick both laughed as Bob and Bernadette woke, and realized they had been caught. And as Adam stood there with a genuine smile on his face, he knew it would be ok. Mitz was right, you can't forget it. But you move on. I'll be ok this time, because I've got the girls on my side. This time, it really will get better.
'Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass... It's about learning to dance in the rain.' – Author Unknown