|Primary Characters:||Michael, Kyle, Alex|
|Warning:||references to sexual assault of minors|
|Description:||The guys are put into a cell for fighting in the street. Tthe tension leads to a fight, and later on, bad dreams. Michael is driven to sharing his worst secret with the others, and finds that Kyle can sympathize.|
“It could be fun.”
“Yeah, just great.”
Michael wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic as Alex was. It had been Max’s suggestion that they go to the concert. When the girls had decided to have a girls’ night, they had all thought it was a joke. Why would they want to spend an evening together, when they could have been with their boyfriends?
But it was soon obvious that the girls had been completely serious. So Max had come up with the idea of driving over to the concert. It would mean a drive of three hours in each direction, but since they would now have time on their hands, that didn’t seem to matter much.
“Don’t be so negative. It’ll be fun. If they’re having a girls’ night, why can’t we have a boys’ night?”
“Did it ever occur to you, Maxwell, that they might be discussing you or me, right this moment? Doesn’t it worry you what they might find out? From your sister, Isabel. Personal, embarrassing stuff.”
“I’ve got nothing to hide anymore. Do you?”
“Hey, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun, anyway.”
“Yeah, you would, wouldn’t you, mr congeniality.”
As always, Alex found it really hard to cut into Michael’s and Max’s solid friendship. If they really were brothers as they seemed to think, then maybe it wasn’t so strange. But if he ever wanted to be Isabel’s boyfriend, he felt he had to try to get closer to her brothers.
“Thank you, Alex. I’m glad someone appreciates the suggestion. And anyway, it’s probably a good idea to try and fit in. Do what ordinary kids do, right?”
Michael didn’t even bother answering that one. And most of the trip he sat in the back of the jeep, in sullen silence. He could have been with Maria right now, if she hadn’t had that lame idea of girls bonding. Maybe it was Liz’s idea. Somehow he couldn’t picture Isabel there with the two other girls. She wasn’t really into being friends with other girls.
Michael thought she had a point there. Apart from Max, he didn’t have any friends of his own sex either. And that was just fine with him. All you had to do was look at those dumb jocks, like Kyle. That should take care of any misguided ideas of being friends with other guys.
As if merely thinking of the troublesome bully had conjured him up, they spotted a car driven up onto the side of the road. The engine seemed to be boiling, and a noticeably angry Kyle was pacing around it. Michael stared in dismay at Max, who was already braking.
What? He couldn’t be serious. They were actually going to offer him assistance? That jock had probably already called for help, and was waiting for the tow truck this very minute. But Alex seemed to agree with Max about lending a helping hand, and seeing himself outnumbered, Michael swallowed his sharp protest. He didn’t like this male bonding thing, anymore than he liked the female variety.
“Hey, man, can we help?”
Just their luck. Kyle was actually breaking out into a relieved smile. And he seemed a little embarrassed too, apparently.
“Yeah, you could. This piece of trash just shut down on me. Useless.”
“Why didn’t you call for help?”
Michael couldn’t help needling the guy after all the years of bullying he had taken from him and his henchmen. And he was rewarded. The remark made Kyle squirm uncomfortably, and there was no attempt at any sharp retort, as Michael would have expected.
“I – Well, actually, I forgot to recharge the cell phone.”
The smile that spread over Michael’s angelic features, was far from as saintly as his face. It could only be described as smug. Just as he had suspected. Just brawn, no brains at all. Michael might not care much about his grades, but he prided himself on his quick intellect all the same.
“Are you on your way to the concert?”
“Yeah, actually I was. You guys too?”
“Sure. Hop in.”
Thank you, Alex, you meddling fool. And you too, Maxwell. Now you’ve really gone and done it.
Kyle didn’t waste any time, taking them up on their offer. Soon, he was sitting next to Michael in the back of the car. This was turning into an even worse nightmare than Michael had imagined. Why hadn’t he refused to come along? He could have been watching some tv back in his apartment. At least that would have been better than this.
Reading Michael’s countenance, Alex surprised him and offered to change seats with him. That was unexpected, and Michael was filled with gratitude towards his new friend. But, he reminded himself, it was only fair, since the whole disaster was partly Alex’s fault anyway. And the arrogant smile on Kyle’s face almost ruined the gesture too.
Making no comment, Michael just climbed into the seat next to Max, and they drove on in near silence. Alex’s attempts at striking up a friendly, casual conversation weren’t successful, even though Max pitched in and tried his best too. Kyle wasn’t in a mood for conversation, and Michael certainly wasn’t either.
As they drove into the larger town, they all relaxed. Finally they could have a few beers and begin to unwind a little. They still had a few hours before the concert would begin. In a little diner, not nearly as nice as the Crashdown Café, they ordered the beers, non-alcoholic for Max and Michael. If Kyle noticed the choice of drinks, he didn’t comment.
Without any further attempts at small talk, they started drinking. This wasn’t a night to get drunk, so they stopped after they’d had a few, and they were by no means drunk when they hit the street again, some 45 minutes later. Alex even got them to order some fries to go with the beers, just in case. But the drinks had had the desired effect. Soon, Max and Kyle were quite happily chatting away together. Again, Michael had that sharp pang of jealousy. This was his friend, his brother, and what business did that stupid jock have, trying to come between them?
Alex again sensed Michael’s mood, and despite the obvious difficulties, went back to trying to strike up a conversation with him. Though chit-chat was the furthest from Michael’s mind, he appreciated Alex’s lowkey and patient sympathy, and he tried to respond. Even when his mind was on it, Michael wasn’t a great conversationalist, but at least the evening seemed to be off to a good start, considering the circumstances.
They were wrong about that, as it turned out. While Max went to pick up the tickets, the other three went ahead. Outside the arena where the concert was taking place, they ran into a couple of local troublemakers. Three guys who had had no problem at all with getting completely pissed.
So before long, the guys found themselves forced to fight back. At least Kyle needed no more encouragement than that, and seeing his companion for the evening set upon by three bigger and stronger guys, Michael felt he had to join in the fight to back up Kyle. Alex’s sensible, but misguided advice was drowned out by the din of the brawl. The police sirens were not, but the situation was so far out of hand that Kyle and Michael had no choice but keep defending themselves.
Even after the officers ordered them to stop fighting, Kyle and the locals had a hard time breaking off, but the third guy took off and disappeared into an alley. As Michael and Alex stood helplessly watching, Kyle and two of the other guys were surrounded by the police, and dragged away for questioning.
One officer grabbed Michael, and looked inquiringly at Alex. Torn between the loyalty to his friends and the instinct to avoid getting in trouble with the police, Alex hesitated. When the police officer asked him, he made the decision to stick with his friends. The other three had attacked them. Surely the police would listen to his version of what had happened?
“Yes, officer, I’m with them.”
“Ok, you’re going with the others, son.”
It was unreal, riding in a police car, along with his friends. Alex was miserable, and he could see that even Kyle was looking a lot less self assured than he had only a few moments earlier. Most likely he was beginning to envision his father learning about his transgression.
Michael was harder to read, but his posture told Alex that he too was feeling downcast to say the least. How could this have happened? Then Alex remembered Max. If he could find them – But what could he do? He was just a kid like the rest of them. This sheriff didn’t seem to be as easy to get along with as Valenti. Comparatively speaking.
When they arrived at the police headquarters, Alex was spooked enough to answer any questions he was asked, but it was soon obvious that their troubles that night had only begun.
“Ok, Derek, Len. You know the drill. Sampson, you sit with the boys out in the hall. Make sure both their fathers come to pick them up.”
“Why are you letting them go? They started it.”
“So you can talk, son. Good, now just tell me your name, and how I can reach your folks.”
Kyle sullenly faced the floor. There was no way he was going to admit his name was Valenti. Not this close to home. He would just die if his dad found out about this.
“You’re one of those strong, silent types? Ok. Suit yourself. What about the two of you?”
To the accompaniment of the snickering of the two locals, as they were being led out of the room, Alex found that Michael too, was going to keep quiet. He could understand that Michael was reluctant to give his real name and so draw attention to himself, but didn’t he see that by keeping quiet like this he was doing even more damage? Alex didn’t agree, but faced with this united front of silence, he felt his decision had already been made for him.
“Is that how you want to play it? Fine, we still have one cell available. I guess you will be taking advantage of our hospitality for a while longer. No, don’t bother, Lange. I’ll see to it myself. This way, gentlemen.”
And all they could do was helplessly follow the man into the corridor on the right. He hadn’t been joking. Most of the cells were occupied already, and from the looks of things, by older and more serious offenders. There were catcalls and whistles, and lewd remarks.
“Hey, girls, there’s still room for a few more in here. Sheriff, how about putting them in with us?”
The sheriff smiled unpleasantly, and for a second pretended to consider the request seriously, before dismissing it.
“That’s enough. Keep it down, will you.”
“Oh, what a shame. If you change your minds, boys, the door is always open – Not!”
And with the sound of the raucous laughter in their ears, the three guys followed the sheriff further down the corridor. In the cell next to theirs, they could see what looked like an old tramp. The man was deeply asleep, so he didn’t seem to be about to cause any trouble, which was a relief after the unpleasantness the moment before.
Dejectedly, they sat down on the two berths inside the cell. Apparently, they had been lucky to get one to themselves. The other ones seemed to be so filled up, not everyone could even sit down at the same time. Although they didn’t know it, the sheriff had deliberately kept one cell free in anticipation of more youthful offenders, with the concert in mind.
At first there was a stunned silence. As the sound of the sheriff’s footsteps receded along the corridor, and the door slammed shut behind him, no one felt inclined to speak. In each of their minds was a turmoil of confused and bitter thoughts. Self-recrimination alternated with desperate plans for escape. Maybe they should have given their names after all.
It didn’t take them long to reach the stage of mutual accusations. Although Alex felt he was the only one not to be in the wrong, he did his best to soothe the volatile feelings, before the strained atmosphere in the small cell exploded into violence.
“Are you happy now?”
“Me? What are you talking about?”
“You. I guess you never hesitate before throwing yourself into a fight. Is that all you jocks can think about?”
“Look who’s talking. I can’t believe I’m hearing this, from the guy who’s always in trouble.”
“Hey, guys. We won’t gain anything by fighting among ourselves. Let’s talk about it instead.”
“Who asked you? Butt out. I’m sure that Michael needs to get all that out. Go on, what are you waiting for? If you have something to say to me, this would be a good time.”
“Leave it, Alex. At least he’s right about that. I have plenty to say to him, now that he isn’t hiding behind his dumb ass jock buddies.”
“Who are you calling a jock? And anyway, look at you, hiding behind Max and Isabel. What do you call that? Now Max isn’t here to protect you anymore, boy. Come on. If you’re so tough, give it your best shot.”
“Michael, Kyle. Don’t. You’re only making things worse. What if they separate us? Would you like to share a cell with those biker types out there?”
He might as well not have been there at all. Instead they were circling each other, looking for some opening, some weakness to take advantage of. Now Kyle managed to lure Michael into rushing him prematurely. It was obvious that Kyle would have the advantage in any fight between them.
Michael was biting his lip, a worried frown on his face. Alex realized that he was afraid of inadvertently using his powers, of giving himself away, or worse still, seriously harm Kyle, but at the same time, he was angry enough to ignore that caution.
“Michael, please stop. Why can’t you just talk about it?”
No answer. He hadn’t really expected one either. Now he could see Kyle landing a heavy punch on Michael’s chin. Alex winced. That had to hurt. But Michael twisted away, and came back at Kyle from the side, crashing into him. They were rolling around on the floor, each trying to break free, to end the fight quickly.
Alex suspected that they had never been in any confrontation this serious. He was quite sure that they didn’t really want to hurt each other.
Both of them were now bleeding from nose and lips, and Alex thought he could see Michael’s breaths painfully tearing out of him, suggesting that Kyle might have damaged one his ribs. But now Kyle missed Michael, who managed to twist away again, and so hit the cell wall behind them, painfully. The strength behind his punches seemed to be diminished. Seizing this chance, Alex dared to make one last try to break up the fight, before there were some more serious injuries.
“Ok, that’s it. Stop it, both of you. This is stupid. Give it up now.”
And to his own surprise there was a note of authority in his voice that had never been there before. For the first time since the beginning of the fight, both guys looked back at him. Then Michael got up, clutching his ribs with one hand. Ignoring Alex’s outstretched hand, offering support, he sat down heavily on the berth behind him. Kyle, just as awkwardly, groped his way backwards, to the other berth.
“You win, Alex.”
The bitterness in their voices was cutting. Alex didn’t feel as if he had won anything. They were still in as much trouble as before, and judging from Kyle’s and Michael’s glowering, it would be a tiresome night, to say the least.
What they didn’t know, was just how long the night would be.
Outside, Max had just learned what had happened to his friends. Unable to reason with the sheriff, he decided to drive back to Roswell to get help. From his parents if possible, but if all else failed he intended to talk to Valenti.
He could sympathise with Kyle’s wish to keep his identity to himself, when he ended up in police custody, but remaining locked up all night, maybe even for days wasn’t a very good idea either.
Michael might have laughed at Kyle’s inability to recharge the mobile, but the fact was that neither one of them had thought to bring one at all. They had simply forgotten all about it. And now it was too late. Rather than trying to find a pay phone, Max opted to drive back home, and explain in person. He kept his fingers crossed that his friends wouldn’t end up in serious trouble in the meantime.
If he had known the state his friends were in right then, he might have changed his mind about the long drive home. When Michael and Kyle had calmed down a little, Alex tried to check on their injuries. But he was violently shaken off, by both guys.
“Get your hands off me. I’ll be fine.”
“Ok, suit yourself. Michael?”
“No. Thanks, but I’ll be ok.”
“If you’re sure.”
Time passed slowly. In the end, Alex tired of hearing the painfully strained breathing coming from Michael. His ribs had to be injured, and there might be more that wasn’t as obvious. By now, surely Michael’s tempered had simmered down to a more manageable level, and he might be approached.
“Let me look at that.”
Michael had been staring steadily down into the floor, and hadn’t noticed Alex’s approach. When the hand made contact with his shoulder he tensed up and brushed it off.
“Sorry I startled you. Or did I hurt you?”
“What? No, forget it. I just want to be left alone.”
“But if that’s serious, we might need to call for help. Come on, take off your shirt.”
“No. Leave me alone.”
“Don’t be a baby. Let me look at it.”
“I said no. Get your hands off me.”
Alex pulled back, stunned by the sudden outburst.
“Ok, no need to bite my head off.”
Michael painfully turned on the berth where he was sitting, and faced Alex. The look on his face was even harder to read this time.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you like that. But I’ll be fine, once Max gets here.”
With one look at Kyle, Michael’s voice trailed off uncertainly. What if he had given himself away? How could he have forgotten that that rat Kyle was still here?
“It might be a long time until then. How do you feel, both of you?”
Kyle’s temper seemed to have cooled down considerably. Maybe a fight was just what he needed to get in a good mood. He even smiled a little at his friend.
“I’m ok, it’s just the wrist that hurts a little. And I really deserved that. Nice move, Guerin.”
Even if Michael didn’t see it as such, Alex recognized a peace offering when he heard it, and he was impressed. He had never heard Kyle this reasonable around Michael or Max. But Michael didn’t even look up. He was most likely too busy fighting the pain. Since Michael was reacting this inexplicably, Alex thought he would at least check on Kyle’s injuries, and whatever they said, he would call the sheriff back, and demand to see a doctor, if he found anything serious.
“Ok, what about you, Kyle? Will you let me see that wrist?”
“What for? I’m ok.”
“And what about the rest? Is that the only place it hurts?”
For a second it seemed as if Kyle wasn’t going to reply, then he made an effort to appear untroubled.
“Yes, I’m cool.”
He turned a little again, trying to get up off the floor, where he had been sitting, out of the way from the others. Just as Alex had thought. He too was trying to cover up some other injury. The sound of pain that made its way over his lips, hinted as much. Alex got up and held out his hand to help Kyle up, but again, he refused the offer. Stumbling over to the berth where Alex had been sitting, he tried to make himself more comfortable, but it was obvious that he was failing.
“I guess the sheriff was right. The strong silent type, both of you. Kyle, I mean it. Let me see that wrist, and whatever else is bothering you.”
What was wrong with these guys? Again, Alex found himself shoved away far too forcefully. He was only trying to help. Were they still that worked up after the fight, or was something else bothering them?
“Ok, I give up. If you guys want to lie down, I’ll sit down over here.”
At first he thought they weren’t even going to answer him. But it seemed they were both slightly embarrassed by the violence of their reactions.
“Thanks, Alex. I’m sorry I overreacted just now. Don’t sweat it, ok. Like I said, I’m cool. I’ve had worse on the field.”
After that, there didn’t seem to be much more to say. Michael tried to stretch out on his berth, stifling a moan of pain. Well, Alex had offered to help, and if he didn’t want it, he could just blame himself. After some careful manoevering, Kyle made himself as comfortable as he could on his berth.
Alex sat on the floor, as he had promised. It was even harder than it looked. It didn’t take his ass long to go to sleep completely. He knew there would be needles and pins all through his legs too, when he tried to get up, but short of sharing a bed with one of the other guys, there really wasn’t any alternative. There would be no sleep that night for him. But he tried to rest his head on his knees, even if it would soon make his neck hurt too.
He must have fallen asleep anyway. Someone was screaming uncontrollably, in mortal fear, or so it seemed. His head shot up, and looking around, he tried to find the source of that eerie sound. But someone else had already found it. Kyle was standing over Michael, trying to wake him. Again there was an unearthly howl, and from the other cells came outraged calls of protest. No officers seemed to be about.
Alex could see Michael raising his arms above him as if to ward off a blow. So there really was something wrong. Something completely unrelated to getting in a fight, or even ending up in a cell overnight. Alex, too, got up, with a vague idea in his mind of offering some kind of comfort. Kyle was backing away in alarm. Alex stood beside him looking down on Michael, whose face was still contorted in pain from something the others couldn’t see.
And despite Michael’s violent reaction earlier, Alex couldn’t help reaching out, to hold him. Anything to comfort his friend. At first Michael tensed up, and for a second Alex was afraid he was going to lash out, but then he seemed to give up his violent dream struggle, and went more or less limp in Alex’s arms.
“Michael, wake up. It’s ok. There’s just me and Kyle here.”
Helplessly, Kyle and Alex exchanged glances. This was definitely not what they had expected when they’d set out for the concert this afternoon.
“Hey, man. I hope I didn’t spook you too much, with the fight and everything.”
Finally, Michael’s eyes opened. At first he didn’t seem to be taking in his surroundings. His face was naked, vulnerable, and Alex didn’t even want to look into his eyes. Then Michael regained some control, pushed Alex away and tried to sit up. There was a thin sheen of sweat over his skin, and his breathing came raggedly, whether that was caused by his injuries, or his nightmare, wasn’t clear. It was a while until he could collect himself enough to even speak. But he could see the others watching him, and made an effort to appear normal.
“Ok, show’s over. You can go back to sleep, or whatever you were doing just now.”
“But what was that all about? You really scared us.”
“Yeah. I thought I was in some kind of horror movie. Maybe you should try out for the school play this year, Guerin?”
“Sorry about that. Just forget it, will you.”
“No, Michael, how can we just leave it? You were in agony. That wasn’t just this fight, and the cell, or was it?”
“Just leave me alone.”
“Ok, fine. But I doubt we’ll get any sleep now. We’re lucky no one came to check up on us after all this.”
“I said I was sorry. What more do you want from me?”
“I don’t suppose you want to talk about it, so nothing, I guess.”
“There’s nothing to talk about, Alex. I know you mean well, but just let it go.”
For a while they all sat, tense, awkward, their backs against the wall. Eyes darting to and fro, nervously. It was as if someone or something had made its way into the cell with them. And from now on it crept up on them, making them jump at every little sound from outside. Alex wondered if this was anything to do with Michael’s unusual heritage.
Kyle’s thoughts worked in another direction. He didn’t know why, but he was uncomfortably reminded of something from his own deeply buried past. Naturally he was imagining things. But Michael’s reaction had been so strong, almost frighteningly so.
After a while, Alex decided that anything would be better than this charged silence. So he tried to think of something to say.
“Don’t you think Max will have figured something out by now? It’s 10.30. I can’t believe I even fell asleep this early.”
“Yeah, he’ll be back soon, I’m sure. Cheer up, Guerin.”
“Sure. He’ll be here soon.”
Michael didn’t sound enthusiastic. Something seemed to have gone out of him, in these short hours. Normally, while Alex suspected a lot went on under the controlled exterior, Michael still seemed to be together, in charge of his own feelings. Now he looked beaten, crushed. Alex was sure something was really wrong. And he didn’t think it had anything to do with being an alien. But if he was right, he didn’t know how to get Michael to open up and get it all off his chest.
It was odd, but it seemed Kyle was changed too, in some subtle, barely detectable way. He seemed to care more, to be genuinely sympathetic to Michael’s pain. What could have happened to create this new, more sensitive Kyle? Normally, Alex would silently have agreed with Michae about Kyle being a jock, quite simply. Come to think of it, he had never seen Michael this – Alex was searching for a word to describe the changes in the shy loner – subdued, broken almost. So this was what that tough exterior hid.
Then he heard the sobs. Quietly at first, but as if the first sound washed away all barriers, louder, and even more desolate.
This time, Kyle reached Michael first, and rather awkwardly, sat down beside him, putting an arm around him. So Alex stayed where he was, watching, in wonder. He kept expecting Michael to push Kyle away, maybe even a repitition of the violence earlier, but it seemed Michael was too shaken to even try. Instead he slumped down against Kyle, and though it had to be the first time in his life he had ever hugged another guy, Kyle did his best to offer what comfort he could.
That was so stunning and new, that Alex looked up sharply to stare at Kyle. Was this really the same Kyle he had known for years? Since kindergarten, really, although they had hardly been friends.
Kyle even seemed to find the right words to get through to Michael. Again Alex was impressed. Apparently he had been selling Kyle short all these years. And finally the crying subsided, and Michael brushed away his tears, but he didn’t pull away from Kyle. They remained sitting together as if they’d always been best friends. After a while, when he got his voice back, Michael began to talk.
“I was dreaming about my foster father. Even if he’s gone for good, I can’t seem to shake him. I swore he wouldn’t get to me, but it seems he has after all. Sometimes, when he was drunk, he’d get angry for no reason, and then if I didn’t take off right away, he’d beat me. With no warning, he’d just hit me. I guess you guys can’t understand what’s it been like. Your dads probably never laid a hand on you.”
“No. But he isn’t around that much.”
“Mine isn’t either. But of course I can understand. You should have told someone, years ago.”
“As if anyone would care. Besides, I didn’t want them to know.”
“That’s stupid. I’m the last person in the world to praise my dad, but he would have taken you seriously. He would have made sure you got help.”
“Yeah, well, maybe, maybe not. Anyway, he didn’t just beat me up.”
There was a stunned silence at that revelation. Because they had no doubts at all as to what else Michael’s foster father had done to him. It was how he said it. Tonelessly, in a matter-of-fact way. Alex felt his chest constrict, and for a moment he found it very hard to draw breath. Kyle’s reaction was harder to read, but he too seemed shaken.
“We had cable. In that damned camper. And most of the time he’d watch sports or some movie. But sometimes he’d watch – other movies. Porn. Then I knew I was in trouble. If I had any idea of what was going to happen, I’d stay away. Sleep outside somewhere. But sometimes I’d have fallen asleep before he – Before.
Then he’d come into my room, and sit on the bed. He was always talking as if this was some kind of treat, something that I loved as much as he did. And I couldn’t tell him no. He’d have beat the crap out of me, and then he’d have done the same thing anyway. So I just let him. But I should have fought back. How could I just let him do it to me? All I could think about was, if he got what he wanted fast, he’d leave me alone.”
“Because they’re grown-ups. You don’t argue with them. If they tell you to do something, you just do. Even if it’s something you’d never go along with if you had any choice.”
Again, Alex had a bad shock, and he couldn’t help saying what was on his mind.
“Your dad, too, Kyle?”
“What? No, of course not. It was coach Lasky. Two years ago. I was staying after school, practising. Just me and him. Greg and Jimmy never showed up that night. Suddenly he was in the shower with me, and – Anyway, they teach you to just obey without question, and besides, I was so embarrassed, I just stood there, while he – And when he told me to – what to do for him, I just did it. Afterwards I wanted to die. If my dad had found out – He’d have thrown me out of the house.”
This was totally unexpected. After hearing about Michael’s ordeal, Alex found he wasn’t really surprised, but this… About someone like Kyle. He couldn’t help thinking that there seemed to be more to most people than first met the eye. The secrets they hid. While he was still thinking about what to say to Kyle, to make this ok for him, he was interrupted by Michael.
“I’d never have guessed. But like you said. It was a teacher, someone you’re supposed to obey. And he was your coach. But I don’t think your dad would have thrown you out. He would have driven Lasky out of town. You were right. It’s not something you can do much about. When it’s someone like your father or a teacher, you can’t help it. Thanks. Both of you. It’s not as if I planned on ever telling anyone, but it did help to talk about it.”
“Yeah, I guess so. But if any of you guys ever tell anyone about it, I’ll -“
“Of course we wouldn’t. Scout’s honor.”
“Yeah, whatever. I’d never tell. I hope you realize I don’t want this spread around either.”
“Then it’s a deal. No one knows about this, except us. You won’t tell Max or Isabel or one of the other girls?”
“No. This is between us.”
“Speaking of Max, what could be keeping him? This dump is freezing and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were roaches too.”
Strangely enough, these revelations had changed the atmosphere in the room. Now there was a companionable silence, as if they’d been best friends for years. Like Max and Michael, or Alex and Maria and Liz.
Something about Kyle’s posture hinted to Alex that he was untroubled for the first time in years. He looked different. Suddenly it struck Alex that the front Kyle presented to the outside world was completely like Michael’s. Always trying to be cool, in control, tough. Both of them missing a loving home.
It had never occurred to him that Kyle might be feeling that way. Michael had always been more obvious, but despite the outward respectability of Kyle’s home, what was the difference? His dad might actually be there, but while his mind was on his work, and his quest for aliens, he couldn’t be said to actually be looking after his son.
For once Michael was feeling at peace with himself. He no longer felt the need to lash out at everyone else, and it actually felt good to have unburdened himself, even to someone like Kyle. What Kyle had experienced in the not so distant past, was a bond between them, one that Michael would never have suspected.
If he’d ever been asked to name one person in the school that he simply couldn’t stand, it would have been Kyle, without a doubt. But all this time, behind that dumb jock facade, had been hiding this person he could relate to. Life never ceased to throw suprises in his way. If only most of them were this positive.
Kyle, too, was amazed at how much better he felt all of a sudden. A few hours earlier he and Michael had been more or less at each other’s throats, but now, he felt something for the shy boy that he had never thought possible.
For the first time in his life, Kyle faced the fact that he had never really had a friend. He had dozens of pals, team mates, drinking buddies, guys he hung out with, sharing stories about girls he’d been with, but never before had he felt this close to anyone.
And Alex, the weirdest geek in the school, how could he have turned out to be such a good friend?
It seemed Kyle hadn’t been paying much attention to anything, outside of sports and girls. Maybe he should have. If he couldn’t find what he sensed Liz and Max shared, then at least he might have this. Two really close friends. Guys he could actually talk to, not brag in front of. This really was a night for firsts.
Finally there was the sound of a key turning in the lock. The door of their cell swung open, and sheriff Skelton was standing there, looking a lot more polite and approachable than he had the last time they’d seen him.
As if he really was there to serve and protect. Maybe it had something to do with who was right behind him, impatiently sweeping him aside, pushing through the door. Valenti scanned the room, looking from one guy to another, seemingly to make sure there was no real damage done.
“Are you ok, boys? I heard you had a little trouble.”
Kyle winced. Here it came. He had hoped his dad would at least wait until they were alone together before tearing into him. That apparently was too much to hope for. But it seemed he was wrong. His dad grabbed his hand, and pulled him to his feet, and before Kyle had time to think any more gloomy thoughts, he felt himself pulled into a quick, hard embrace. Another first. It had to have been at least five years since his dad last gave him a hug.
“Let’s go. Max is waiting outside in the squad car. I’ll call you later, Skelton.”
“Alright. Just so you know, if these kids would only have let me have their names and phone numbers, you could have had them back hours ago.”
“I see. Well, I’m sorry if they’ve caused any trouble.”
“Never mind. It’s what can be expected on a night like this. Your guys here were attacked by a couple of local bullies, but I couldn’t very well let them get away with fighting right in the main street, now could I?”
“Thanks. We’ll be on our way now. Like I said, I’ll be in touch later.”
In the car on the way back, no one had much to say. But to his surprise, Kyle found that yelling he had expected didn’t seem to be about to come at all. His dad had actually been worried about him, and he wasn’t angry at all.
“It’s a shame you boys missed the concert. Never mind. There will be others. Cheer up.”
Max, Michael and Alex exchanged glances but nothing more was said on the way back. Each of them was far too relieved that it was over. They would have to talk later. In the morning.
Even the other guys were stunned at the sheriff’s reaction that night. Lately he had seemed more accessible, but this – It was so totally unexpected to find Valenti coming to their aid, like he was their dad too, not just Kyle’s. Maybe they really could trust him. But they all felt it was too soon to be thinking about confiding in him.
Right now all either one of them wanted was to be home again. Far from leather clad bikers and locked cells.
Valenti dropped Max off outside the Evans’ residence, then drove by Alex’s house. As they pulled out of the driveway, Valenti looked inquiringly at Michael.
“Would you like to spend the night with us? I should think it might be lonely over at your place.”
Normally Michael wouldn’t even have had to think before he replied, but for the first time in his life, he felt as if he wanted to trust someone. If he said yes, he would actually be inside a real home. Max’s and Isabel’s parents had been so strict, so awe-inspiring, it had been difficult for him to respond to their kindness. He had felt like a bull in a china store, but he had a feeling that the Valenti household might be run a little more informally.
But old habits die hard. He was about to open his mouth to turn down the offer, when he saw Kyle looking at him, almost pleadingly. Maybe it was an effort to put off the inevitable scolding, but Michael rather thought Kyle actually wanted him there. Could it be that Kyle felt as lonely as he did?
He was so stunned by that new and mindboggling thought, that he only nodded absentmindedly in reply to the sheriff’s question. Before long he found himself getting out of the squad car on Valenti’s driveway.
“Make yourself at home, Michael, I’ll just park the car. You’ll get the spare bed in your room ready, Kyle?”
Inside the house, there was a slightly uneasy silence. Michael had never shared a room with anyone until now. And now he would be sleeping right next to Kyle Valenti, one of his worst enemies, at least before tonight. But Kyle was actually smiling, and going about the chore of putting out fresh linen and other everyday things. For Michael.
For once someone was going to some trouble for his sake. If he didn’t count Max and Isabel, and in the very last few months, Maria, no one had ever done that before. Before tonight he could hardly remember the last time he cried, but again, for the second time in just a few hours, his eyes felt suspiciously moist. Kyle hadn’t noticed anything, which was a relief. What would he be thinking if saw Michael crying like a little kid, again? Once was more than enough.
Soon they heard the sheriff slamming the door shut as he came in from outside.
“Are you boys hungry? If you like, I could fix you up something.”
“No, thanks, dad, not for me. Michael?”
“No, thanks. But I’ll have a glass of water.”
“Be my guest. Is everything ready in your room, Kyle?”
“Yeah. It’s taken care of.”
“Well, I suppose you’re tired. You must want to get to bed. But if you want to talk, you know where to find me.”
“Thanks for the water. I’ll be getting ready for bed now. Thanks again, both of you.”
“No problem. Kyle, could I have a word with you? Won’t take a second.”
Well, it had been too good to be true. Kyle straightened up in anticipation of the lecture he was sure would be forthcoming. But again, he couldn’t have been more wrong.
“Look, son, I can understand why you didn’t want to give your name tonight. Perhaps you’ve forgotten that I know all about being the sheriff’s son. But this was serious, and I need you to know that you can always count on me, if something happens. Please, don’t forget that. Sometimes it might seem as if I don’t have much time for you, but I promise you, that if you ever need me, I’ll be there for you. Whatever I’m doing, I’ll drop everything and come to you.”
Kyle wanted to relish this moment. For once his dad really seemed to care, like other dads. But if he wanted total openness, surely he could go first?
“Ok. I got that. But this honesty, and tell-each-other-everything, shouldn’t it work both ways?”
Valenti stared at his son as if he was seeing him for the first time. Apparently, his son was paying attention to far more of his work than he had ever imagined. It was no use pretending that he didn’t know what Kyle was getting at.
But no matter how much the love for his son meant to him, there were some secrets he simply couldn’t give away. It occurred to him that this might have been the way his father had felt all those years ago. Maybe he had loved him after all. Valenti sighed. The rift between him and Kyle might be beyond his power to bridge.
“I’m sorry, son. It’s not my secret to give away. And this is dangerous. If you knew, your life would be in danger. I can’t risk that. You should know by now that I love you far too much for that.”
“It’s too dangerous for me to know, but not for Max and Michael and Alex, and the girls?”
“No, it’s too dangerous for them too, but they’re already in the middle of it. Too late to do anything about it. If you were me, wouldn’t you want to protect your son?”
What could Max and the rest of them have gotten themselves into, that was so risky, his dad would speak this way about it? Organized crime? Drug consortiums? Kyle couldn’t imagine what his friends might have become entangled in.
But his dad was wrong. If he knew, he might be able to help. And if his dad was in this too, wasn’t his life in danger as well? Not knowing would be worse, but convincing his dad of that was useless. At least he now knew for certain how much his dad loved him. That was comforting.
Maybe Michael had been right about how his dad might have reacted if he knew about that incident with coach Lasky. But Kyle didn’t think he would tell his dad anyway. He had some pride.
Looking up at his father, he decided to give him what he wanted. He smiled warmly, and even dared to give him a quick hug, before going back to his room. Michael would be wondering what was keeping him.
But when he saw Michael stretched out on the extra bed, Kyle knew that his guest hadn’t wondered at all. He must have been fast asleep within minutes of lying down. The covers had fallen off the bed, and without thinking, Kyle pulled them up again, and threw them over Michael.
A good thing no one was there to see him, acting like a sissy. But somehow it felt good to have someone to look after. He had always wanted a brother, and even if Michael was nothing like he had imagined a brother would be, the house felt more like a home tonight. Like when his mom was still around.
Tomorrow he would have a go at convincing Michael and Max to let him into the secret. Whatever it was, Kyle was sure he could be of some help to them. If Michael had dared to confide his darkest secret to Kyle and Alex, and if Kyle himself had dared to reveal his worst nightmare to the others, surely this other secret couldn’t be so impossible to share? On that confident thought, Kyle fell asleep.
When sheriff Valenti looked in on the two boys a few minutes later, they both looked much younger. All the toughness and posturing of two seventeen-year-old boys were gone, and instead there was this perfect picture of innocence.
Valenti had to remind himself of what was at stake. It was up to him to protect them, all of them. If the powers that were at work against them were allowed to catch up, there would be no more innocence, no more peace and safety, in their idyllic little backwater town.
Valenti turned off the light, and returned to his own room. He could still get a few hours of sleep before he had to be down at the station.
His last thought before dozing off, was not about his lonely quest. It lingered on the happy smile on his son’s face, when Michael had accepted the invitation to stay the night. Kyle really needed a friend. How odd that it would be Michael Guerin. Oh, well. What did it matter?. A friend was a friend.
If only Michael, and the other kids, would be allowed to live in peace here in Roswell. And making sure of that was his job. Soon no other sounds were heard from the Valenti residence than the soft breathing of three people, soundly asleep.