Clifton sat across from Melvin but he wasn't really paying attention. The way his best friend called him on the phone and asked to meet left Clifton feeling as if his world was about to end.
"No. Gimme a second. I'm not entirely sure I'm ready for what's coming so --just give me a second."
He rubbed his palms into his thighs while his mind went through different conspiracy theories, none of which made any sense. His heart raced faster with each thought until Melvin must have thought something was wrong for his friend reached over and grabbed his now shaking shoulder.
"It's bad isn't it?"
Melvin hesitated but nodded and released Clifton's shoulder. "But you have to remember, dude, this is what was in the rumor mill--and we both know these things are like playing broken telephone."
Clifton nodded. "Alright. Tell me."
Melvin took a sip from his drink as if readying himself, cleared his throat and shoved his hands into his lap. He leaned forward and locked eyes with Clifton. "Okay, so according to my mother, your mother used to be friends with Jack Roddick - the boys' father- and Emilie Brown who wound up being Jack's wife later. The three of them and one other, Seth Harperhagaen used to be attached at the hips. They went to high school together, pulled pranks together, got hauled down to the sheriff's office together. Once they all got arrested but with the Roddicks' connection they were all released and the case just disappeared." Melvin cleared his throat again while glancing over his shoulder. Finally he looked back and continued. "But your mother, started developing a crush on Jack Roddick."
"Would you let me finish?"
Clifton swallowed. "Okay, sorry."
"Like I was saying. Your mother started catching feelings for Jack Roddick. At first she hid it and was quite successful at it. But things got worse when Jack started showing interest in every other girl but her. She began withdrawn, started listening to depressing music but didn't say anything to Jack about it. Then Jack started dating Emilie and shit really hit the fan. Apparently, your mother did some horrible things to Emilie--one night they all went camping for the weekend up by the Roddick's lakehouse. Your mom waited until Emilie was sleeping then cut her hair. Mom showed me a picture it was like...night and day man. Emilie started out with beautiful black hair, down to her ass. When she woke up it was shorter than a bob."
Clifton stomach tightened and he suddenly felt ill.
"She even switched Emilie's shampoo with paint, lit her chair on fire while Emilie was still in it...it goes on and on. Finally everything came to a head after Emilie 'accidentally' ran out of gas on Dead Man's Peak. She had to walk down that hill, in the dark to Porter's. Jack was there with some guys from the rugby team and was not pleased. She was sobbing, Jack was holding her and your mom just lost it. She admitted her feelings for Jack and ask how he could love such an ugly thing... It got all over town, and Jack told your mother if she came anywhere near him or Emilie again he'd ruin her."
"I can't breathe..."
"Come on, Cliff. This is what was in the rumor mill."
"But the picture of Emilie's hair...I mean who would make that up? She's my mother and I adore her but Melvin--I'm a grown man. My mother taught me all these years to hate these people and now I find myself wanting one of them and I don't know why I shouldn't. She won't tell me anything. If they'd harmed her wouldn't she want me to know--wouldn't she want me to make them pay?"
"Maybe she knows you would go after them so she doesn't want to tell you."
"No. It's more than that. Shit. My mother is like the characters in a soap opera that makes me not watch those crap."
"That's a tad drastic..."
Clifton lifted a hand and shook his head. "No. She tried to ruin this woman and look what happened, huh? Then she raised me to hate these people and I like a moron listened to her. I mean what the fuck!"
"You should get a drink."
"No. I don't want to be clouded for this."
"So you want Kenneth, huh?"
Clifton hung his head. "He's trying...really hard to get my attention and after we kissed I just--for once in my life I don't want to do something because that's what my mother expects or because its what you expect or anyone else. I want to do something because it makes me happy."
"So if Kenneth makes you happy go for it."
"I wouldn't feel right but if what you're telling me is true then I have nothing to feel guilty about."
"But Kenneth is human. He can only wait so long."
"I bought some time with him."
Clifton smirked. "He wants me in his bed, Mel...I told him if he wants me in his bed he will have to earn it..He will have to seduce me."
Melvin flailed. He actually flailed!
"Did you just flail?" Clifton questioned.
Melvin laughed. "Well, I'm pretty sure he would rock your world Cliff. You just have to let him."
Clifton smiled and he left their guy's night out feeling more convoluted than before. Still that night he lay in bed, wide awake, staring at the ceiling wondering what it would be like to have Kenneth snuggled up to him with a palm over his chest. He wondered what Kenneth's first smile of the day looked like and what his first kiss tasted of.