[center [pic http://imgur.com/1Fpr8jq.jpg]]
Trust. Did Cicero think trust grew in abundance in the Republic of Royland? Had he given off such an impression? The audacity drove Royland to chew his lip, as he pondered all of Cicero’s unsubstantiated claims. Such “means to protect” certainly did not stop Lady Luck from calling in sick - how could he be expected to put his trust into what he could not see?
“He’s already suspicious of who you are. He’d follow [i me] to see what I’m up to. Who I’m with. Where I am.” Royland rubbed his temple, mindful of the bruises on his face. No matter what his concerns were, Cicero had already made up his mind. At the very least, their cover stories matched, and they were on the same page about what they needed to do for the day. Perhaps that was all Royland could ask for. “...Fine. I’ll grab just a few things, and I’ll call you when I’m out of sight of the house. Just in case Dad comes back around the neighborhood, or the neighbors get suspicious. Your car is so weird, man…” Those tinted windows had always screamed, ‘I hide in alleyways and sell drugs to teenagers for a living.’
Royland felt his chest flutter at Cicero’s fingertips against his skin. The chuckle that escaped him read more nervous than playful or lighthearted. “For the record, if I were a girl, I wouldn’t rely on you to save me.” He pointed to his face, “Look at me. I’d have an army of Prince Charming’s at my disposal.” A quick glance at the clock at the wall behind the barista’s counter, and Royland stood. If Cicero was leaving, there certainly was no reason for him to stay. Feigning confidence, he leaned in close before walking past.
“I guess I’ll settle for you. Just for today.”
On his way back to Hell, Royland tried to reconcile the reservations in his mind that weren’t satisfied during his conversation with Cicero. There was something about too many pieces missing from the puzzle that bothered him, sudden developments in their relationship that made him feel anxious. Living together, out from under the thumb of his father, close to school, in an apartment he didn’t need to pay for. But the freedom was his only foreseeable advantage. That place, while the chance for a new beginning, would be a cage. But, it couldn’t be any worse than the prison he called home, now.
Marlene Vondien is startled by her son’s sudden reappearance. He was usually gone for longer than he was today - she turned her head to check the time on the oven’s clock. There’s one set of footsteps thundering upstairs to his bedroom. He wasn’t with anyone. He didn’t say hi. He usually doesn’t, but he had rushed past the kitchen at such a clip, she wasn’t sure if he had even noticed her standing at the sink.
The sound of the rummaging in his room bothers her. It’s frantic, quick, he’s muttering to himself as though he’s in a hurry. Quietly, she goes up the stairs, and seeing that the door to his room is open, she lets herself in. Royland is silent when he turns to his mother. She has to work up the nerve to even ask him, “Where are you going? Back out?” The dish rag in her hand strains under the tightness of her tired fingers. She tries to relax herself, and pushes a strand of graying hair out of her face.
“Yeah… I’m staying the night at someone’s house.” He says. Marlene’s reaction is subtle, and she fixes her mouth, waiting for further explanation. Annoyed, Royland lets out a breath, and says, “It’s a girl. Don’t worry.”
“Is that true, or is that just what I should tell your father?”
“Would it bother you if it wasn’t a girl, Mom?”
“I-...” Marlene takes a step back. The fabric on the rag is stressed, threatening to rip. “No. You know I don’t care who you-... Roy… If something’s bothering you-” Royland points to his face, and his mother’s breath catches in her throat.
“Baby, [i please]. Don’t hate your father. He just, he’s old fashioned! He doesn’t know how else to express himself.”
“There’s definitely better ways to confront your bigotry. Beating the shit out of your son because you [i suspect] he’s gay isn’t fucking one of them.” Royland doesn’t break eye contact with his mother as he gathers his bag from the bed. It’s only half full, but the fervor with which he steps past her forces her to grip onto the strap of his backpack. He turns around, displeased, “Let me go.”
“I just wanted to say that I love you.”
Mother and son exchange glances. And within the mother, the son sees his own grief, evolved; a leviathan that swallowed her youth, beauty, and vivaciousness. Royland’s lip curls, and then, he looks away, stifling his anger. He cannot stand to look at himself, in her. His mother has the same thoughts, and yet, she cannot look away.
“I love you, too, Mom. I just wish you loved yourself the way you love me.”
It isn’t the first time Marlene had heard such a thing. And she had always tried to be strong, but the rush of emotions came pouring out, as she was prone to do. The one who was always there to wipe away her tears, and soothe her with an embrace, was that little boy she had poured her heart and soul into raising, and who she had tried - and failed - to protect. But, he wasn’t a little boy, anymore. It takes a moment, but when Royland feels his mother is able to stand on her own two feet, he bids her goodbye at the door.
“Are you coming back?” Marlene asks.
Royland smiles, “I’d tell you if I left for good, Mom. Goodnight. Lock the doors.”
“I will.” And he’s gone.
As he’d promised, once he was safely out of the radius of watchful neighbors, Royland took out his phone from his pocket. He’d had Ci’s number memorized.
[i [center I’ll walk out by the closest convenience store. Make it look as natural as possible.And for God’s sake, avoid the cameras in the parking lot, if you have to park.]]