My mom greeted us at the door and quickly took Max and Alex away from the impending danger. More like running for their lives while they sent me into the lion’s den. But that was alright, I knew eventually it was going to come down to this. Just me and Dad.
The house was eerily quiet as I walked through to his office under the stairs. It was a unique space which had been two closets, one rather large one meant for linens and the one under the stairs. Dad had converted it into a small room just big enough so he could shut the door and have complete privacy. It wasn’t meant to have more than one person in it at a time. But this was where all punishments were doled out if they were serious.
I sat down opposite my father in the only other chair in the room and waited until he looked up at me with his identical chocolate brown eyes. They were molten lava as he glared at me.
“Where did I go wrong with you?”
“You didn’t go wrong. I have straight A’s, I’m the top of the class. What more do you want? I didn’t want to play football, I’m sorry I disappointed your legacy.”
He shook his head, “This isn’t about football. But I can see now why the boys didn’t want you on the wrestling team. Afraid of what you might do to them in close quarters.”
“Yeah thanks, Dad. I can’t keep my hands to myself. Boys are just too fucking tempting. I was raised to take what I want and never care what ever the other person wanted. Yeah, that’s me.” I stood up. “You already grounded me because I’m gay so what are you doing now? Forbidding me from going to school. Kicking Max out so all temptation is gone from under your roof.”
“You will not talk to me like that.” My father growled.
“And I’m tired of you telling me I’m not good enough. Now I’m not man enough. I’m sick of it.” I growled right back and walked out of the office leaving the door wide open.
“Nox, get back here.”
“You are not my father.” I yelled back at him.
“If I catch you and Alex in the same room in this house… You will not do that under my room”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” I spat out as I stomped up the stairs. Maybe I wouldn’t stay here then. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d run away. I had a bag already packed too. It was always an option. My bug out bag was always packed. Zombie apocalypse – check. But it was more for this type of situation.
I sat down at my desk and wrote a quick note. Lucy knows where to find me. And folded it up and wrote Alex on the front and slipped it under Ant’s door. He’d see it or Max would.
I grabbed my bag, and I slipped out the window and down the tree. I caught Drew looking out the window and he was running out of the house but I sprinted out of view and around the corner and kept on running with my bug out slung over my shoulder.
It hadn’t been the first time I’d run away. But it might be the last. I loved my Dad. But he didn’t love me anymore. I failed him and he thought I was nothing now. The pain of it fueled my feet to run.
There was an old homeless shelter at the far edge of town. It had been where I’d been found by Kai and his team. Me and Lucy, curled up in a corner starving. It’s where I ran. It was the safe place in all the terrible things that happened to us before we turned five. It’s where I always ran to. My father knew this. My sister told him. But he never remembered. He thought because of all the therapy I was better, and that I’d find it safe at home.
Kim was at the desk and frowned when she saw the bag. “Again?”
I shrugged. “Can I help around here?”
“Absolutely.” She said and took my bag and stuffed it in a locker and handed me the key. “Suzie’s in the kitchen working on dinner, if you want to help.”
I nodded, “Thank you.”
“Anytime, Nox. I hope you aren’t here too long. Lucy doing alright?”
I nodded, “She’s great, has a new project.”
Kim rolled her eyes, “What is it this time?”
“She’s helping a struggling kid in our school under the radar.”
“Sounds like Luc.” Kim said. She’d been working here most of my life. She said she’d never retire from this job. She’d die right here with them. She and my dad had dated back in the day. They both loved helping people, sadly my dad didn’t find me worthy of loving. It was painful to think about it so I didn’t. I step into the kitchen and greeted Suzie with a hug around the waist while she chopped up some veggies. “What’s on the menu tonight?”
“We got lots of beans. Figured we’d make a soup.”
“Sounds good. Where can I help?”
“You know the drill.” She said. And I did. I took over for her after washing my hands and went to work chopping vegetables. Helping Mom in the kitchen had always been fun. But this was work. When you ran a soup kitchen, the meals were far larger than one for a family of six. And it kept me from the dark thoughts. I didn’t think beyond cutting up the peppers and onions. There were tons of carrots and tomatoes after that. It was monotonous work, but it felt good to not think, not be concerned about the next second. It felt safe. And I hadn’t realized how bad it had gotten in my head until it was not there.