Sunday, 21 June 2015

4.3 - Numb ....

Numb .....

After leaving Atlas's house earlier I went straight round to Tapestry's.  As soon as I walked in I was dived on by a stressed out Mango, who kills me because he seems to care more about me than my own parents do!!  Everyone had started to worry over my whereabouts, they were beginning to think that something had happened to me, because my Dad was running around town like a headless chicken trying to find me.  Parsley and Tapestry were the last people who could say that they saw me yesterday afternoon, and my phone has been turned off.  Crimson was about to send a search party out to look for me.  

Tapestry pulled me into his music room, he was very amused, as he guessed where I was but he could not say anything without giving the game away.  He told me he had just phoned and spoken to Atlas on the sly and he mentioned I was on my way round to see Vanilla and Crystal.  I presume Mango phoned my Dad to tell him I had turned up because it did not take Crimson long to turn up to give me a roasting for worrying everyone.  Crimson ended up staying and spending the afternoon with Crystal and Vanilla along with me.  
As I lie now on my bed, at 'home', next to Crimson pretending to watch the television, which I am not really taking in, his laughing is starting to annoy me.  I can not concentrate on the movie that he is engrossed in, because I am too busy happily day dreaming about Atlas.  I know exactly what Crimson is trying to do, spending time with me trying to reconnect our relationship as brothers, however, I am still having to keep him at arms length, not wanting him to get too close to see my secrets.

I am a little annoyed with my brother because I came home to sleep.  The time seems to be dragging very slowly towards tomorrow and I am mentally tired and felt like sleeping, to pass the time away quicker as well as to shut my head off from all the thinking it is doing.  Hence why I am here and not at the dive bar.  Not that Crimson is going to let me sleep, unceremoniously crashing in on my space.  The only good thing about him being in here is it keeps Dad away from me, so I remain quiet with my annoyance and let Crimson stay.

My phone bleeps to tell me that I have just received a text message.  I pick my phone up quickly, off the bedside table, and look at it, hoping it is Atlas, but it isn't it is Sulfur which annoys me.  I throw my phone down onto the bed and ignore the text that he has send me.

Sulfur is now starting to really get on my nerves.  I do not know why suddenly he thinks that I want to talk to him via a phone call or text, after he dumped me and all the horrible things that he called me.  He was the one who broke us up, so why now is he acting like he is trying to fix it!?  He does not seem to understand that the names that he called me and the awful things he said about me being a mixed berry, can never be taken back and I can never trust him not to throw them at me in future.  Besides I now know, that everything about our relationship was total crap!! 

"Your phone has been very busy today."  Crimson laughs without taking his eyes off the television.  "Are you not going to answer that text like you have answered all your others?  I notice there is no smile attached to this one!"  Oh berry!!  He does not miss a trick!! 

"No, I can't be bothered!!  It is just an old friend from back home, who is really starting to annoy me.  If I don't answer his text, he might get the message and get lost!!" 

Crimson tries to grab for my phone as he starts laughing, but he does not even get close because I hold him off and get to my phone first as I shout at him to get lost and mind his own business and stuff my phone into my pocket.

"Touchy touchy!!  Sign of guilt that!!  What are you hiding I wander?"  he laughs.  I know if anyone is going to suss me it will be Crimson, he is a policeman after all.  He always has been a sneaky snooper!!  I just lie there and ignore him.

"Have you changed your aftershave?"  he frowns at me in an odd way  "I noticed earlier that it is not your normal one, it smells really nice what is it?"

My blood runs a little cold.  I am wearing Atlas's aftershave.  Obviously staying over at his last night, I had nothing of my own there, so after I took a shower before I left this morning, I used his.  I never even thought about Crimson, he is like a sniffer dog, if anything is out of place he will spot it.  I have to do some quick thinking.
"I was in the chemist buying headache tablets for my hangover,  I don't know what the aftershave is called, I just picked up one of the testers and had a squirt"  I mumble

"Its Dark Musk"  he smirks at me  "Expensive stuff that, $150 and that's just for a small bottle.  I know for a fact that you will not find that in a Sugar Valley chemist!!"

"Well if you knew what it was called, why ask me!!"  I frown at him  "Do you ever have a normal conversion, or are you always playing the detective trying to catch people out!!  Did I say the chemist was in Sugar Valley - I do appear to the eye to be pure, I can and do wander out of this town you know!!"  

I frown at him then as alarm bells start ringing in my head.  

"Hang on - if you say you wouldn't find it in Sugar Valley, how would you, Mr mixed berry who can not go out of town, know what it's called and how much it costs or even what it smells like?"  I frown at him.

"Atlas Maps."  he smiles at me.  I try to keep my face straight but doubt I am yellow anymore, I can feel my colour draining away  "He wears it, surely you know."

"How the hell would I know!!"  I snap at him  "Anyway how do you know what aftershave Atlas wears?"

"I asked him because he always smells nice."  he smiles at me  "He is one of Gravels victims and one of the witness's being called during the trial so I have had to spend quite a bit of time with him, as I am working on the case with Elderberry now in place of Cinnamon."  he smiles at me  "Atlas is a really nice guy."

"Can't say I've been close enough to smell him."   I mumble trying to throw him right off the scent, literally, his aftershave has probably just given the game away.  I could just come out and tell him, however I don't know how he is going to react and he will find out next week anyway, along with all my other brothers and sisters.  I am inwardly laughing at him saying that Atlas is a really nice guy, at least he will approve of my boyfriend even if he does not approve of me being gay!!

"Well there must be something wrong with your nose, he only has to walk into a room and you can smell him - I swear he baths in it, a little like how you smell right now!!"  he laughs.  I keep my eyes on the television trying to act uninterested with the conversation.  "He has the freakiest eyes I have even seen!!  I nearly shit myself at the hospital when he opened his eyes, just after he came out of surgery from having the bullet removed.  You will never guess what he hides under those brown contacts he wears.  He has one green eye and one red eye."

"Blue and orange."  I mumble without thinking and he starts laughing  

"So you do know Atlas then?"  I don't like the tone in his voice suddenly, it is almost smug.  Then I realize what I have just done, he has just caught me right out and I have dropped myself right in it correcting his eye colour mistake ... which he probably did on purpose.  "I did not think you would know him.  So how do you know him?"

"I don't only by sight."  I still don't look at him  "Tapestry told me his name, and about his eyes."

"Really!"  he laughs sarcastically  "I saw him last night actually, in the dive bar on his own, when I went in there looking for you at midnight."  I don't like all this talk about Atlas, I think he has sussed me out.  "So I guess you must have seen him there last night."

"No, I didn't see him, I took off about ten."  it goes quiet for a while.

"You have never been a very good liar have you Saff!!"  I look at him then and he is laughing at me.  "Wally recons you was in there until close on midnight, with a brown guy, you disappeared only minutes before I appeared apparently.  A little strange when Atlas, who is a brown guy, said he had been in there for a few hours and had not seen you.  So someone is lying and trying to hide something aren't they Saff!!"

"Wally probably got all confused.  He is getting senile in his old age and he drinks more booze than he sells most of the time!!" 

"Wally seemed perfectly sane and sober to me!!"  he raises his eyebrows at me  "So are you any closer to telling me what is going on with you and Dad now?"  he questions me, I just know he has or is working it out!! 


"You know Dad is spitting feathers because you stayed out again last night.  Why would you stopping out upset him so much when he doesn't get upset by anyone else stopping out all night?  So come on - who's bed did you crawl out of this morning?  Is whoever it is, married, is that why Dad is so up in the air?!"

"Just drop it will you Crimson, if Dad will not tell you, then neither can I!!"  I scowl at him  "And who says I crawled out of anyone's bed, I could have been sleeping on a mates couch!!"  I laugh at him  "Sugar Falls is only a few hours drive away remember, I did have a life there before I was dragged back to this dump!!"  I pull a face at him  "So I went to visit my mate and crashed on his couch, is it a crime?  If it is ... Arrest me!!"

"Maize has this theory, he thinks you are still a virgin, with you never having had a girlfriend and you are just too embarrassed to admit it."

"For berry's sake!!  NO I am not still a damn virgin!!  Just because I have never had a girlfriend it does not mean I've never had sex!!  One night stands, I'm sure you have heard of them!!"  I snap at him sarcastically "Or don't squeaky clean policemen do that sort of thing?"

"Why have you never had a girlfriend Saff?"  he frowns at me  "You have to admit it is a little strange at your age.  You are an attractive guy, more than most of us."

"I've never met a woman that I want to get into a serious relationship with yet.  It's not so easy out in the coded world you know, having to stick to only one colour!!  Our choice is very limited, we can't just bed hop with anybody and everybody like little miss loose knickers does.  If I fancy someone who is say blue, it is tuff shit, I can't even entertain the relationship let alone act on it without getting arrested!!  Not that I really need to tell you any of this Detective!! "  he laughs and rolls his eyes at me  

"Well you are not in the coded world now."  he laughs  "Maybe you should ask Mint out, she is a nice girl and single."

"Are you pissed!!"  I snap at him with a look of disgust on my face.  "I do not fancy Mint for a start and I'm sure you know, she is still barking over Parsley, beside I won't be around long enough to date anyone from this town!" 

"What?!"  he frowns at me  "You are staying in Sugar Valley aren't you!"

"No, I'm moving to Berry Shores!! I don't like this town, because Dad is in it!!"  

Crimson sits shakes his head disappointingly at me, he doesn't understand why I am so down on the old man and he won't have a bad word said about Dad.  Suddenly he squints at me, then starts laughing.

"Is that why you have not got yourself a job yet because you plan to leave?"  he frowns at me. 

"Yes.  You are not on duty now PC Shine, so do me a favour, can we quit with the interrogation now!!"

"You can not leave already, you have only just come back!!"  he scowls at me  "What the hell is going on with you Saff?!  You have totally shut yourself off from all of us!!"  he snaps at me

"I did not shut myself off!!"  I snap sarcastically  "I was sent away and dumped at the Grandparents remember and not through choice!!!  I am SICK of everyone pecking my head in this house, when it's not my head that needs pecking!!  Ask the parents, they are the problem here!!"

The bedroom door opens and Dad walks into the room.  He does not look happy as he glares in my direction.  This is all I need.  When I am in here alone, I tend to lock the door, especially at night, so that he can not get at me, however, with Crimson being in here it might have looked a little suspicious.  The first night I was back in Sugar Valley he woke me up in the middle of the night laying into me.

"Crimson, your Mother wants you downstairs."  Crimson frowns at Dad  "She needs to speak to you about something, in private."  

Crimson gets off the bed in a huff.  He is moaning that he was enjoying the film, which amuses me because he hasn't been watching it for the past ten minutes or so, too busy interrogating me.  I laugh sarcastically knowing this is just Dad's way of getting me alone so that he can set about me for staying out all night.

Dad just stands there staring at me until Crimson has left the room and closed the door behind him.  I just stare back at him and can seriously say that I hate him!!  Any feelings that I had for that man faded years ago, and when I look at him now I just feel numb.  If he was to fade tomorrow, I doubt I would even shed a tear, I would be relieved.  Dad gives Crimson time to clear the landing and make his way downstairs, before he quietly turns the lock on the bedroom door.

"Get up!!"  she snaps

"Get lost!!"  I snap back

"Get off that bed now, before I drag you off!!"

Oh berry here we go!!

I stand up to face him even though I do not really want to.  I know if I do not do as I am told and ignore him, he will just started paling me until I do.  He has locked the door, so if he does start nobody can come in and stop him, or either of us from fighting.  I seriously don't know why he has not given this up by now, especially since I became an adult and started fighting and answering back, instead of just taking it.

"Where the hell were you all of last night and half of today?"  he snaps

"Where the hell do you think!!"  I snap at him  "In a cute guys bed practicing my sin!!"

"In this town?"

"Obviously in this town, seeing as you slashed my tyres to stop me going out of town and after Sulfur!!"  I snap at him  "I guess I should really be thanking you, because you have actually done me a favour.  I have found myself a much better boyfriend right here in Sugar Valley!!  Dead cute he is too!!"

"WHO?"  he snaps  "WHO IS IT?!"

"None of your damn business!!"  I laugh sarcastically  "You will find out soon enough when you see us out and about around town together."

Suddenly  I hear Granites voice in my head, telling me I don't have to stand here and take his crap.  Dad just stands there for a moment with his eyes closed.  I start counting in my head, I know before I count to 10 he is going to explode, but I don't give him a chance.

"You know I am getting SERIOUSLY sick of this!!"  I snap at him  "Before you even start you can stick your sanctimonious lecture up your ass, because it will not make a scrap of difference.  I stopped listening to the crap you preach years ago!!"  I snap at him.  "You have had more than enough time to get used to it.  I am GAY and you are never going to change that ... so get over it!!" 
"What have I told you - you are NOT to practice your filth in this town!!"

"It is your own fault, you dragged me back here to do it!!  I am not going to change who am or remain celibate for the rest of my life just because you say so!!"  I snap at him  

"Well I am telling you NO MORE!!"  he snaps

"Why not?  Just because I am gay, it does not mean I don't have needs just like everyone else!!"  I snap at him  "I've got just as much right to have a relationship and sex as anyone else!!"

"That isn't sex - its FILTH!!"  he yells at me  "You know damn well why not.  I DO NOT want you corrupting your brothers and sisters!!  They do not need to know the disgusting abomination that you are!!"  he snaps  

"It is far from filth or disgusting!!"  I laugh sarcastically  "It is not a contagious disease you know, you can't catch it or corrupt anyone into trying it!!"  I snap at him  "What the hell is your problem anyway?!  Do I remind you of your GAY twin brother or something?  A little ironic that I inherited his name along with his sexuality.  Or is it YOUR SIN that smacks you in the face every time you look at your yellow gay son!!  Why did your parents send you away to that boarding school Sunny??  Did he fall or was he pushed??"

"SHUT UP!! Just shut up!!  Saffy has got nothing to do with this!!"  he yells at me very angrily and I know I have hit a raw nerve!!  "We are talking about you and your filthy ways.  Why don't you drop this crap and find yourself a girlfriend like any normal person!!"

"Like it is that easy or I have the choice!!!  Do you still not get it I AM GAY!!!  I shag men not women so what the hell would I do with a girlfriend??!!  I did not choose to be gay anymore than you chose to be straight!!"  I yell at him  "I will find myself a girlfriend after you have found yourself a boyfriend and had a decent blow job and shag!!"  

I watch his face start to do somersaults.

"Shut your filthy mouth!!"  he snaps 

"You are pathetic ... it isn't them finding out that I'm gay that you are scared of is it Sunny!?  You just don't want the rest of your children and this town to find out exactly what you are, more like!!"  I snap at him  "A narrow minded lying, abusive, homophobic twisted berry hole!!"

"DON'T you ever speak to me like that or call me by my name again!!  I am your Dad and it is about time you started listening, doing as you are told and showing me some respect!!"  he snaps  

"How old exactly do you think I am!!  You are a joke and you have not been my Dad since I was fourteen years old"  I laugh sarcastically  "You don't deserve my respect and you will NEVER get it!!  I wish you would just do us all a favour and hurry up and fade!!  It should have been you who was helped out of that tree, not your brother!!"

He goes for me then, but I was waiting and prepared for it, I even pushed him to do it on purpose, because I know I am not getting through that locked door without him laying into me and I would rather he did it while I am facing him rather than when my back is turned trying to unlock the door.

He goes to punch me but I dodge him, pushing him as hard as I can to stop his fist from driving into my stomach.   He loses his balance and goes flying across the room.  While he is sprawled out on the floor I unlock the door quickly and bolt out of the bedroom and down the stairs.  I storm out the house, slamming the front door so hard, I heard glass smashing as I am storming off down the path and away from the house.  I don't even bother to look back as I run off down the street.

As I run off down the street I start to get that feeling consuming me again.  If I had stayed in the house I probably would have locked myself in the bathroom and opened up a few old scars or made some fresh ones, with my 'friend' who is hidden behind the bathroom mirror.  I think about Atlas and know I can not do that anymore, not only will he notice straight away, I know deep down it never really solves anything anyway, it is only ever a temporary fix.

I find myself heading straight for the dive bar, basically because I do not have anywhere else to go.  As I have already spent the afternoon with Tapestry, Crystal and Vanilla, I can not really go round there bothering them again today.  

I thought about what Granite said for a moment about going back there, however, I don't think I can just yet.  The last time Atlas text he told me to wish him luck because he was just about to have that talk with Mace and I haven't heard from him since.  I am still waiting for him to let me know how it went. 

As I walk into the bar my phone starts ringing.  When I pull it out of my pocket, I am hoping it is Atlas, but I see Sulfur's name flashing up on the screen.  I am already in a bad mood, this is the very last thing I need and it just tips me over the edge.

I stand staring at my phone for a moment, half tempted to launch it in anger.

"WHAT The Hell ... do you want?!"  I yell down the phone at him when I answer the call.

"Wow Saff!!"  he mumbles  "Honey I just want to talk!"

"Well I do not want to talk to you, and how many damn times do I have to tell you to STOP calling my honey!!!"  I snap at him  

"I'm sorry!!  I keep forgetting about your sister."  he mumbles

"Yeah that is you all over isn't it!!  Selfish, if you cared you would remember!!  What is your problem Flash?  You dumped me remember!!  It's over you said, so quit hassling me and just get lost will you!!"

"Yes I know and I'm sorry!!  If I could take it all back, I would, I should not have done it in the first place.  You know what I'm like, I act first then think later."  he mumbles  "Where are you? I want to see you, I want to put things right, I miss you!!"

"Well I don't miss you, so leave me alone and quit bugging me!!"

"Please Saff!!  Come home and we can talk!  You love me, we can sort this out!"

"No Sulfur actually I don't love you, I am over you already!!"

"You don't mean that!!"

"Oh I do!!  Even if I did love you, it would never work ... It is bad enough that I have to be slated for being gay!!  I do not need you on top throwing it in my face and slating me for being a mixed berry, something else not of my choise or making.  I can not trust you not too keep throwing it at me all the time!!"

"I won't, I promise!!  I'm sorry, it was just the shock!!  I have never even seen a mixed berry before, finding out you are one, it just freaked me out even if you don't actually look like one."  he mumbles  "I'll come to you if you want, are you in Sugar Valley?"

"Don't even bother Sulfur!!  It is over!!  You'll only be wasting your time coming here, because I have started seeing somebody else now ..."

"Get lost Saff, like I am falling for that!!  You are so not seeing anyone else so soon!!"

"Oh I so am, and he has shown me that everything about our relationship was total crap, especially the sex!!"  I snap at him and I hear him choking  "Go find yourself some other mug to shag, but I suggest you check their birth certificate first, then you won't end up with another abomination!!"  I snap at him  "Bye Sulfur, have a nice life without me in it!!"

I snap my phone shut in anger and shove it back in my pocket.  

My phone starts to ring again straight away but I ignore it, knowing it will be Sulfur again.  When it rings for the third time I get annoyed and pull my phone back out of my pocket.  There is a missed call from Sulfur, but it is my Dad's name that is now flashing up on the screen.  Why doesn't he just leave me the hell alone.  I just switch my phone off, thinking I'm in for it big time at midnight if he does not come here looking for me in the meantime.
After a few stiff drinks which I knock straight back, I find myself wandering over to the pool table and setting up the balls.  I am not really playing properly, I am taking my frustration out on the pool balls, smashing the white ball as hard as I can into the other balls.  The noise of the white ball smashing into the other balls, hard and at speed, is quite a nice sound to my ears.  What I really need right now is to be at the gym smashing the hell out of the boxing dummy.

"Hey Shine, you need to calm down a little!!"  Wally shouts at me as the white ball flies off the table and bounces noisily across the bar floor hitting everything in it's path.  "You break anything you will be paying for it!!"

"Whatever!!"  I snap back at him.

I collect the white ball off the floor and return it to the table.  I set the balls up again, pick up the pool cue and bend over the table.  I am about to take a shot when I feel a hand on my backside.  

I freeze, still leaning over the table as the hand starts to grope my backside.  I think I already know who's hand it is, even through my clothes I can feel my skin burning, all the hairs stand up on my skin as a nice feeling washes over me and makes me shudder.  I smirk as I glance back over my shoulder and Atlas is stood behind me with a cheeky grin on his face.  

I drop the cue and turn round to face him.

"I guessed I might find you in here."  he laughs  "Your phone is going straight to answer phone.  I thought maybe you might be trying to avoid me!  Are you bailing out on me already?!"  he raises his eyebrows as he puts his arm around my waist which surprises me a little.

"Hell no!!  As if!!  When I said I think I love you I wasn't joking!!"  he rolls his eyes and laughs  "I am Sorry, my Dad is giving me hell for being a dirty stop out again, so I switched it off."  

I tell him only a half truth, not really wanting to go into all the rubbish over Sulfur pestering me, because it will just wind me up and I am happy that Atlas is here and don't want to spoil it. 

"The berry hole hasn't hit you again has he?"  Atlas frowns at me   

"He tried, but I dodged him and walked out.  Crimson is on a day off, so he didn't get much of a chance to get near me until tonight."  I smile at him  "So, what do I owe the pleasure, I thought you had binned me tonight.  What happened to your romantic date with the love of your life!!"  I say and his face screws up

"You sarcastic dick!!"  he laughs at me  "Jealousy does not suit you, not that there is anything to actually be jealous of!!"  he laughs again  "I decided to bin the awkward, aggravating, argumentative idiot because our talk did not go down too well and we had a huge fight.  I ended up having to drag Granite back to calm him down.  Of course now you know he is blaming you for me ditching him when he gets send down."  he rolls his eyes  "Turmeric and Gran have taken them out instead, so I am all yours forever if you want me."   he smirks as he leans his body into mine  "Besides, I really don't like the idea of waking up to a cold empty bed in the mornings."

"Oh so you just want me for a shag!!"  I laugh at him

"I wouldn't say we just shag exactly, would you?!"

Atlas smirks at me as he leans straight in to kiss me not giving me a chance to say anything else.  As soon as his lips touch mine I feel the electricity that jolts through my body which always renders my brain incapable of thinking straight, and especially that we should not be doing this here.

This kiss feels different somehow, it is a lot calmer than all the other kisses we have exchanged.  This is a very slow passionate kiss instead of the usual kissing that we have been doing most of the time, that have usually been driven more by lust.  I hope that this is a good sign that he is taking us seriously.

"Hey Shine, I don't mind you snogging but keep OFF my pool table."  Wally shouts across the bar.  " You will both be out, just like last week if I even suspect you've got any ideas about dancing or shagging your boyfriend on my table!"

We break the kiss for a moment to laugh, but I don't take my eyes off Atlas's face.

"Like we would, you miserable old git!!  Just because I threatened to, it does not mean we actually would and especially not on your manky pool table!!"

"Oh you two were drunk enough to do anything last week, trust me!!"  Wally starts laughing  "Isn't it about time you brought your boyfriend a drink!!"

"In a bit Wally, can't you see we are busy!!"  I laugh  

I step backwards and lean against the edge of the pool table and pull Atlas towards me, while I smirk at him, half expecting Wally to shout at us again but he doesn't.  I just hear him start laughing quiet loudly instead.

"So Cinderella, are you coming to warm my bed up again tonight or not?"  he smirks at me  "I promise I will undress you carefully tonight!"

"Kiss me again like you just did Maps and I think I just might."  I smirk back at him.  "And quit with the Cinderella, or I WILL be buying you those wings and that skirt and I'll be making you wear them.  I'm sure Granite would have a field day seeing you in that get up!!"

"Forrest and Slate might get turned on by me wearing a short skirt, but not Gran, he can't abide women or anything remotely femanine, except for Mace!!"  he starts laughing at himself 

"I wasn't on about Granite perving, you wally!!  I was on about his piss taking!!"  I frown at him  "I can understand Slate, but Forrest is gay why would he get turned on by you in a skirt?"

"Both Forrest and Slate, are not gay, they are not even bi, they are emotionally attached to the person not to what sex they are."  he laughs at me as I stare at him wide eyed.  "I doubt Forrest or Slate would get into another same sex relationship if Gran and Bay ditched them."  he raises an eyebrow  "So would me wearing a skirt turn you on?"

"Hell No!!  I am in Granite and Bay's camp!!"  I laugh at him  "Turn me off more like!!  I would have to rip it straight off!!" 

Atlas laughs at me as I pull him in even closer, he is virtually leaning all his weight on me, our bodies so close, I doubt there is any air between us.  He grinds himself against me, which I notice is a constant bad habit of his, this instantly drives me crazy and I am already not thinking straight as we start kissing again.  I do not know what the hell he does to me, but he only has to touch me and all my senses go haywire.  I get so totally lost in the kiss that I even forget where we are and this is the very last thing that we should be doing in a public bar!! 
"Saffron. You broke the glass in the front door you slammed it so hard!!"  I hear an all too familiar voice which snaps me straight back to reality with a jolt.  "I think finally we can now sort all this crap out!!" 

My blood runs cold knowing it is Crimson's voice.  My eyes snap open as Atlas breaks the kiss and at first he just freezes and stares at me wide eyed, I presume he recognizes Crimson's voice too.  I see Crimson when I glance over Atlas's shoulder.

Atlas swings round in front of me to face Crimson, who is just stood there staring at us, obviously he has seen us kissing.  I wander if he has just walked in or if he has been stood there for a while watching, I have been pretty oblivious to anything other than Atlas.

"So I guessed right!!  My little brother would much rather be kissing the boys than the girls and that's the reason why you have never had a girlfriend!"  he says quietly  "I came to talk to you Saffy, I thought I had worked it out after you stormed out!" 

"Yeah right!!"  I snap at Crimson.  "Like hell did you work it out!!  It is easy for you to say that now you have just caught me red handed, kissing Atlas!!"

"The first thing that gave you away ... you came home stinking of Atlas's after shave!!  Atlas a bisexual guy who has already told me he prefers to play gay rather than straight.  You and Atlas were in here last night together, it's not hard to work out what is going on with you two.  So where was you when I came in last night Saffron, hiding in the next toilet cubicle while I took a leak?"  Crimson laughs  "I asked Wally when I came out of the toilet, but he thought you had just left before I turned up.  So I knew Atlas was covering for you, lying about not seeing you,  I just couldn't work out why and he was long gone when I went outside, or so I thought ... were you hiding out back from me too Atlas?"  he raises his eyebrows at Atlas. 

Atlas chuckles to himself as he nods, probably because he was actually hiding round the back of the dive bar keeping an eye on Crimson through the bushes.  Crimsons face is blank of any expression that I can read, his voice is calm and I do not have a clue how he is going to react to catching me and Atlas kissing. 

"You should have seen your face when I mentioned Atlas's name this afternoon, your face and mouth actually dropped you in it a few times and you didn't even realize!!"

"Like when?"  I laugh at him sarcastically.  I don't even know why I am arguing the toss with him, I think I am probably just trying to prolong the agony of his disgust. 

"I know you haven't stepped foot outside this town since you got here, your car has had two flat tyres for over a week and hasn't moved, beside you virtually live in here or the gym you don't have time to go anywhere else!!  When I mentioned the smell of the aftershave, when I mentioned Atlas's name.  You was quick to correct me on the eye colour mistake that I made on purpose.  Atlas has told me he only ever takes those contacts out at night when he goes to bed ... so I guess that's what made me twig, you must have seen him in bed.  Besides, Tapestry is colourblind, so why would he care or even know about the colour of Atlas's eyes.  I doubt he even knows what colour Atlas is full stop.  I spotted the ripped T shirt and the trousers with the knackered zip that you lobbed in the bin in your room, which again smells of his aftershave as well as your own, so I think I can imagine how they ended up like that.  It's strange how both you and Atlas are planning to move to Berry Shores.  The disgust on your face when I suggested you ask Mint, a woman, out on a date.  Do you need me to carry on?"  he laughs quietly when I shake my head in denial  "You forget I can read you like a book, and you have never been very good at lying have you Saffron!!  You get a nervous twitch when you lie."     

Crimson's face remains static, as we stand silently staring at him.  I wander if he is not yet again playing the straight faced policeman.  My stomach is tying itself in knots seriously not knowing and waiting for a reaction from him, he could well blow a gasket any minute now and turn into Dad.

"I virtually followed Atlas in here, and have been stood watching and listening to you pair for a while, you were oblivious to me stood here.  So it is not really too hard to work out what has been going on all this time, is it!!"  he rolls his eyes again  "You are gay and that is Dads problem, with him being extremely homophobic!!"

"Yay for the detective ... he's cracked the case!!"  I snap sarcastically, now he has said the words 'you are gay'  I can feel myself going into defensive mode, waiting and expecting him to turn into Dad, I am waiting for his anger, disgust and insults.  "So go on ... say your piece brother then you can sling your hook!!  Yes I am gay, always have been, always will be and there is not a damn thing you can say or do to change it!!"  I snap at him  "There is nothing you can say that I have not already heard before, from Dad, and quite frankly I don't give a toss what you or anyone else think, I am not ashamed of what I am ... so go on ... do your worst!!!"

"Wow!!!"  he snaps as he steps towards us, he looks angry suddenly.

Atlas jumps in between the two of us.

"Crimson there does not need to be any trouble!!  He already has enough bruises, he does not need you adding to them!!"   he snaps at Crimson who I now can not even look at.  "If you are another homophobic berry hole like your old man you can back off and get lost!!  We are here minding our own business, we didn't ask you to but in and if you don't like it, you don't have to be here!!"  

"You can relax Atlas!!  There is going to be no trouble.  Seriously how can either of you even think I am homophobic?!"  he says quietly  "I do not give a shit about you being gay Saffron!!  I am not Dad!!"  he starts laughing briefly   "Now it all makes sense, and I can see why he has been the way he is with you.  You should have told me!!  I would never have judged you or treated you badly for being gay, and it upsets me that you would not know that!!"  

I glance at him when I can hear the genuine upset in his voice.

"Atlas can you get a round of drinks in please."  he smiles at Atlas as he hands him some money.  "I'll have whatever you two are drinking." 

Atlas looks at me nervously, I nod and smile.  We both just stand there silently for a moment as we watch Atlas make his way to the bar, who keeps glancing back at us.

"What bruises?"  Crimson frowns at me.

"It's nothing, Atlas should not have mentioned it!  Not yet at least!!"  I mumble.

Inwardly I am laughing at Atlas, he won't be satisfied until Crimson especially knows the whole truth.  He is hoping that Crimson will arrest the berry hole!!  I did promise him that I will tell my brothers and sisters about the mental and physical abuse and self harming, for all my Niece and Nephews sakes, but I was not expecting to have to do it until next week.

"WHAT bruises Saffron?"  he asks me again quite sharply  

"Dad."  he stares at me wide eyes as I hold my breath and lift up my top to show him.  I guess there is no time like the present, I can at least get the beatings out of the way.  "I hit back now, as you saw last week.  A few times this week he has forgotten himself!  He forgets I am not a kid anymore and he can not beat the living daylights out of me like he used to."  I roll my eyes  "The reason I slammed the door so hard earlier - I legged it because he took a swing for me, he was planning to lay into me for staying out last night and practicing my gay filth as he calls it."

He looks away for a moment, and just stands there silently staring at nothing like he is trying to take it all in, I watch quite a few expressions wash over his face before he turns back to look at me.

"So are you saying he beats you regularly?!"  he frowns at me

"Yes, constantly.  I haven't been bruise free since I was fourteen, he's even broken my ribs a few times."  he stares at me wide eyed and in shock, he is also confused because he does not understand when Dad was doing it.  "You know he used to come to Sugar Falls at least twice a week to see me, it was never a pleasant social visit.  Every time he came, I had to sit and listen to his sanctimonious lectures about how wrong being gay is, and how disgusting I am, then he use to beat me, I think he thought he could beat it out of me.  Since I've been back, any opportunity he gets when there is nobody else around he has a pop.  Sending you down to Mom was probably his way to get rid of you so he could have a go ... what did she want you for?"

"She sent me to the shop for bread and milk!"  he chokes as he stares at me wide eyed  "When I got back Mom was upset trying to clean up the glass off the garden.  She said you just lost it and thinks you have anger issues."

"Yeah exactly, like I said, he set it up to get you out of the house so he could have a go!!"  I laugh sarcastically  "I didn't lose it at all, all I did was pushed him over to stop him from punching me in the stomach and I legged it slamming the door in frustration.  I am not the one with anger issues, its him!!  The homophobic berry hole!!"   

"You know you can have him done, that is abuse!!"  he snaps  "Why the hell did you not tell one of us Saffron?"  he frowns a me angrily  "Mom, me, Cherry, Mango, Scarlet, we would never have let this carry on!!"  he snaps  "Hell if I had known this was going on, I would have arrested him myself!!  And I still will if I see him touch you again!!  I know he has always been handy with his fists when we did anything wrong as kids, I've had my fair share of beats, but I did not think he would take it THAT far!!"

"Mom, is just as much to blame, she knows exactly what has been going on all these years, she has just stood back and let it happen, even though she does not actually mind that I am gay, or liked the way that Dad has handled the situation, so she says."

"What the hell were our so called Grandparents doing while this was going on?"

"Turning a blind eye to what Dad was doing when he visited."  I smile at him, he is starting to look angry  "Don't get me wrong, they were not nasty or anything, they accepted me being gay.  I think me being a mixed berry bothered them more.   They even let Sulfur, my boyfriend move in.  When Dad was around we hid Sulfur and they just pretended and acted like they agreed with him, just for a quiet life."

"So you have a boyfriend?"  he frowns at me as he glances over at Atlas quickly who has returned from the bar.  "I presumed you and Atlas ..."

"We are!  Atlas is my boyfriend now.  Me and Sulfur broke up before I came back here.  I'm not Strawberry!!"  we both laugh for a moment.  "Dad wrecked our relationship when he found out Sulfur was living at our Grandparents with me.  We kept Sulfur hidden when Dad was around, most of the time he was at work anyway when Dad visited."  I laugh  "Dad came over unannounced kicking off when he found out about Crystal, we were in bed and he just barged right into my room."  I laugh sarcastically  "He was already livid with his parents over Crystal and when he found out Sulfur was living there and they were letting me practice my 'sin', as he calls it, under their roof he totally lost it!!  Sulfur dumped me and Dad dragged me back here."

"He dumped you?"  he frowns at me  "Why?"

"Sulfur didn't know, until Dad told him, that I am a mixed berry.  It is always a secret best kept out in the coded world, as you know, and one I have never shared with him.  I never even told him I have brothers and sisters other than Honey.  It is horrible living out in the coded world I had to tell so many lies to keep my identity hidden."  I roll my eyes  "Sulfur reacted badly to me being mixed, called me all sorts of names and even threatened to dob me into the law - I was left with no choice but to come back here."

"Saffron, how did Dad find out you are gay in the first place, when none of the rest of us had a damn clue?"  he frowns at me and I start laughing.  "You said you are not ashamed of being gay, so why the hell are you hiding it?  Bay did the same thing, instead of coming out, he drove himself almost mental trying to keep it hidden."

"Funny you should mention Bay.  Bay was terrified of coming out, because of our Dad and the way that he reacted to us being gay!!  Bay knew about the physical and mental abuse I was getting when Dad first found out, he had to stand and watched Dad leather me around the school playground when he caught us making out behind the bike sheds.  We were scared Alpine would react in exactly the same way, maybe even worse, you know how big Alpines ego is!!"  I roll my eyes  "Part of why I never told anyone what was happening to me, Bay would have been dragged into it and I was scared he would end up getting the same."

"Tell me ... you and Bay??!!"  his eyes widen

"Yeah, me and Bay!  He was my first kind of boyfriend."  I laugh at him  "Dad walked into my room and caught us together, that's how he found out.  Dad has known since we were fourteen about both me and Bay being gay."  I laugh  "And I hide it because Dad has made me, that is why he sent me away, to split me and Bay up and he did not want any of you lot to find out, he still doesn't."

"Oh Berry!!"  Crimson just stands there staring at me for a moment.  "I should have seen this years ago!!  Especially when Bay came out, I should have made the connection.  he rolls his eyes  "Dad has always had a very very big problem with Bay in particular, which started when you went away, and we could never work out why, we were banned from having anything to do with him, but we all remained his friend behind Dad's back.  When we found out he was gay, I should have realized!!  It is obvious Dad knew he was gay way way before anyone else!!" 

"Bay has told me Sunny has given him constant hell over the years, nothing physical, but threats, insults and snide comments anytime he gets remotely close to him."  Atlas mumbles

Crimson stares thoughtfully at Atlas for a moment then suddenly starts laughing as he points at Atlas.

"You know Saff, you two seriously need to watch your backs!!"  he laughs  "Strawberry has got a serious eye on this one!!  She has gone all silly over him, he sends her dizzy and weak at the knees."  he laughs "Since Atlas landed in town she is always banging on about getting her claws into him for keeps.  She is actually starting to drive us nutz with it!! "

"She has already tried Crimson, and more than once!!"  Atlas mumbles

"WHAT!?"  I snap

Atlas laughs at me when I stare at him wide eye, I did not know this!!   

"Don't worry, I have told her I am not interested."  he laughs at me before he looks back to Crimson  "No disrespect, I know she's your sister, but that girl is dirty and has no morals!!  She has even had a pop at Granite too, although he wasn't so pleasant when he told her to get lost!"  I just continue to stare at Atlas a little wide eyed. 

"It is seriously embarrassing the way she behaves!!"  Crimson tuts then laughs.  "Atlas telling Strawberry no is like showing a red rag to a bull!!  She will be back!!"  he laughs at Atlas  "I hope you have nerves of steel, because when that girl wants something, she goes for it.  Just ask Bay."

"Ask Bay what?"  I frown at Crimson

"Bay was fighting Straw off for months, even being gay didn't put her off!!  She got her way too, and he didn't stop puking for weeks after he woke up with Straw in his bed!!"  Crimson is really laughing now  "I seriously can not wait to see her face when she find out you have got your claws into Atlas first  Saff!!  It is going to be hysterical!!"

"Bay wouldn't!!  He's as gay as they come!!"  I am shocked.

"Did you not know?"  Atlas laughs at me as he puts his arm round me  

"I don't believe it!"  I frown  "I can believe it of Straw but not Bay."

"He did Saff Honest!!  He told me he was so plastered he didn't know what or who he was sleeping with!!  He swears she slipped something into his drink."  Atlas laughs at me and the three of us fall about laughing.  "He was the one who warned me about your sister, and he still has nightmares over your Dad catching you two and her!!"  he starts laughing  

"Why didn't you tell me about Straw hitting on you?"  I frown at him  "When I told you about Sulfur hassling me, and I asked you about skeletons in your closet, you could have told me then!  You better not go falling for her shit!!  I've already had one of my sisters jumping on the bloke I fancy ..."  

Crimson, who was just taking a mouthful of his drink, starts choking and spits his drink everywhere.  Atlas starts laughing at me hysterically and I just want the ground to swallow me up.  I can't believe I just said that in front of Crimson. 

"No Mr Insecure!!  You do not have anything to worry about you tit!!  Do you think after the serial slut I divorced that I would let another one anywhere near me?!"  he laughs at me  

"Still you should have told me!"  I frown at him 

"Your sister's antics slipped my mind, and it just hasn't come up in conversation yet.  As far as I am concerned I'm just another one on a very long list she has, she has hit on Gran and Tapestry lately too for berry's sake."  Atlas laughs, probably at the expression on my face.  "Strawberry trying to touch me up a few times is not even in the same league as you being stalked and harassed by your bitter ex is it!!" 

Atlas's phone starts to ring.  He looks at it, laughs, then holds it up so I can see the word 'Mom' flashing on his screen.  He smiles at me before he answers the phone and steps away a little while he talks to his Mother, but I can still hear his conversation, which starts to amuse me because he sounds like he is being hen pecked by his Mother. 

"I am out in a bar with Saffron and his brother."  he laughs  "No I am not getting drunk Mother!!  I've got a baby sitter - Saff's brother is one of the police officers on the case so I am sure he will make sure we behave ourselves like good little children!!"  he tuts  "I am not being cheeky but I am thirty not three remember, and I am not stupid, I don't drink excessively around Granite just like I don't drink around Sienna!!"

"Yes Mother!!!  Of course I am eating properly!!  You ask me this every time, and before you even ask, because I know what your next question will be,  YES!!  I am brushing my teeth!!"  he tuts  "You know I can look after myself contrary to what you think!!"

I laugh at Atlas who rolls his eyes at me.  He said he is Mommy cuddled but I did not realise how badly!!  Quite the contrast to my own Mother who could not give a shit.

"Noooo!!  Me and Mace are not even talking right now and I've told him I'm cutting all ties with him when he goes down, which should please you!!"  he laughs as he listens for a while  "Yes Granite is fine and as stupid as ever and exactly the same as when you asked me yesterday!!"

"Stop stressing Mom, I have done it this afternoon, the flights are booked for a week on Sunday, and yes Saffron is coming with me."  he laughs then his eyes start rolling as he is listening to whatever his Mother is saying  "Oh please Mom, don't even start!!  I did not walk here, I caught a plane so it's not like it is the first time, I am quite capable of getting on a plane without you holding my hand!!"

Atlas shakes his head and closes his eyes as I stand there and laugh at him.  I think he is embarrassed by us hearing this phone call, and knows I am probably going to rib him over being a Mommy's boy later. 

"Are you two going away somewhere?"  Crimson frowns at me distracting me away from listening to Atlas's conversation, which I was finding highly amusing.

"Yeah, we are going to Cherry Hill for two weeks, before the trial starts.  We are visiting his parents."  I roll my eyes  "I just hope they like me because my own parents hate me!!"  I laugh sarcastically 

"I think you know that's not strictly true Saff!!  They do love you deep down, they just have a hard time showing it, it has been the same way for all of us."  he pulls a strange expression before he quickly changes the subject.  "Soooooo Affair, Cinnamon, Parsley, Tapestry, which one is it?"  he smirks at me 

"None of your business!!"  I laugh at him  "I am never telling you so don't ask again!" 

"Saff you know you can't keep hiding being gay forever!!"  he frowns at me  "You have upset all of us holding us at arms length and not letting any of us near you, although I can see now why you have been doing it."

"I know and I don't plan to hide it for much longer!!  Next week on the parents Wedding Anniversary, Mom is taking Dad out, so while he is out of the way, I am going to get everyone together and spill the beans."  I roll my eyes  "Which is not going to please him one little bit!!"

"Who actually knows about you being gay?

"Up until today, besides Dad and Atlas, only Tapestry and Bay."  his eyes widen and his eyebrows raise, and I wander what he is thinking.  "If you ever want a secret keeping, Tap and Bay will!!"  I laugh  "Today Granite, Forrest and Slate have seen me with Atlas, and Mace and Shale now knows, but they all know not to tell anyone until next week and I've told my siblings.

"I can not believe I did not see what has been going on right under my nose all this time!!"  he mumbles  "Some Detective I'll make!!"  he laughs at himself.

"You are not on your own - there are seven of you who didn't because of Dad's lies!!"  I roll my eyes  "Who I seriously can not wait to get told!!  I am not ashamed of what I am and I am seriously sick of living my life like this, just because of him!!"

"Yes, they do need to be told, because if you and Atlas continue to carry on like this, in public places, you are going to be giving your siblings one hell of a shock if they walk in on you like I just did, or have to hear it through gossip, because none of them have the remotest idea!!"

"I am worried, how do you think they are going to take it?"

"Like I have!  Seriously none of them will give a shit Saff!!  None of us are homophobic like Dad, if that is what you are worried about!!"  he smiles at me.

I just hope he is right!! 

Song ~ Numb ~ Linkin Park 

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