Hey everyone! I hope all of you are reading this because I'm going to switching the schedule up a bit this month. For the next two weeks, I'm taking a break from Heart for Trade and Taming Fire. Yes, they will be back! Promise! :D While we're on our little series vacation, I'll be filling in with another Shermin Heights story. I HAD to write this one. The little purple haired boy from Read My Mind could not go unnoticed and I've been jonesing to write him a story since January. Plus, I need to take a break from the other stuff for a minute.
I'll be posting a new schedule sometime this week. Dang. I need to update a lot of things. lol Have no fear, updates are coming. I take it you guys liked the whole schedule thing? I did. It helped me out tremendously.
Okay, well, I'll keep you guys posted on what's going to happen in March. Until then I hope you like this. :)
OUT OF MY MIND PART 1 PLAYLIST
Passion Play - William Fitzsimmons
As Your Friend (Radio Edit) - Afrojack
Open Season - High Highs
Follow the Step (Kink Beat Mix) - Rachel Row
OUT OF MY MIND: PART 1
Casey looked out the window of his mom’s suburban. The streets of New Orleans passed him by. The French Quarter seemed extra spectacular in the afternoon, highlighting all the street performers and crowds of tourists in a brilliant light as if they were magical. He tapped his fingers on his knee to the rhythm of a lazy country song blanketing the tense silence between him and his mom. His day hadn’t been so great, pretty shitty on a scale of one to ten, possibly a negative ten. And his mom wasn’t handling their situation any better.
His backpack jostled on the floorboard as they slowly went over a speed bump, heading out of the city. It was the same backpack he’d had since he was seventeen and in it were all the material things he needed to get by. But his mother had insisted he take some clothes. Everyone needed clothes when they left home, even though right now, he felt as naked as he could be.
When they passed the sign heading out of the city, leaving New Orleans behind for good, Casey shut his eyes. He turned away from the windshield, tucking his body against the door.
“Are you sure you want to do this, baby? You could always stay with Aunt Kim with me until things blow over. She offered, you know.” His mother’s hand rubbed his back. “I don’t like it any more than you do, Casey, what your dad did. But running away never solved anyone’s problems.”
“He hit me, mom, over and over.” Casey sat up, cutting his dark eyes to her. “Do you see this?” He pointed to his black eye. A small bandage covered his left temple where his dad had left a nasty cut with his old varsity ring. “I’m not running away. I’m surviving.”
Her hand fell away. She bit her lip, overcome with emotion, and nodded. “Well, we better not be late to the bus.”
“I’m not leaving you behind, mom. You have to understand. I just can’t be near him or New Orleans. Everything about the place will remind me of my old life, before I told anyone. It’s just a bad idea,” Casey whispered, sitting back against his seat. “He’s my dad. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Losing my friends was bad enough, but my dad? He’s supposed to love me no matter what, not like he really ever showed it. But I didn’t do anything wrong. Being gay is not wrong.”
“No, baby, it’s not. Your father was raised in a different time, by stricter folks, and even stricter values. He just doesn’t understand why you would want to give up…damn. I didn’t mean it like that. I don’t know what to say to make you feel better here, Case. I can’t make any of this better and I can’t make excuses for him. What he did was wrong.” She started to cry. “Damn it, Casey. I’m so sorry he hurt you. I’m just so sorry, baby.”
Casey sighed, frowning. “Mom, pull over. You can’t drive like this. You’ll get into an accident. Please.”
She complied, navigating the vehicle off the highway to park on the shoulder. She placed her forehead on the steering wheel, and sobbed. “You’re a good man, Casey. This isn’t fair. You’re my son, my kid, and I feel like my heart is breaking. I don’t want you to leave me. I’m not ready for this.”
“I’m not leaving you for good, mom. I’ll always be there when you need me.” He hugged her, running his hand over her hair. “And I’ll be with Adam. I won’t be alone, so don’t worry about me.”
“Easier said than done, what part about you being my baby did you not understand?” She hugged him tighter. “I’ll always worry about you.”
“I’ll be fine, mom. Going to Shermin might be the best thing that will ever happen to me. I just need to get away, find myself, and heal a little. I think staying busy and being around a more…accepting crowd will do me some good. I’m gonna be all right. I’ll keep in touch, I promise.”
“You’ll call me every week. Scratch that, every day.” She refused to let go.
“Every few days?” She looked up hopefully, mascara running under her eyes.
He smiled softly. “Every few days,” he agreed.
“And you’ll send pictures? It looked like a pretty place on that website. I want to see where you’ll be.” Her lip trembled.
“I’ll send pictures.” He wiped her tears away.
“You’re leaving me.” She rubbed his arm, and exhaled slowly, a futile attempt to ebb the pain in her chest.
He shook his head. “I’m relocating, not leaving you.”
She hummed, turning away. His mom grabbed a tissue from the middle console, dabbing her eyes. “Relocating…I can deal with that.”
“You sure?” He squeezed her shoulder.
“Mm hmm.” She put on her seatbelt and put the suburban into drive. “I’ve gotten this far in life, I think I get through the next part just fine. My mama raised me strong,” she squeezed his knee, “just like I raised you.”
“Are you going back to him, after he calms down?” He buckled up, knowing it was best if he didn’t stare at her. She’d only break down again. He could see her fighting the tears again.
“No. Any man who attacks my son is not worthy of a five p.m. dinner and clean underwear.” She put her foot on the gas and pulled back onto the highway. “I told him for better or worse. I think this qualifies as worse than worse, freeing me of my obligation.”
Casey shook his head, grinning. “I love you, mom.”
“And I’ll always my love my boy.”
The bus stop was almost an hour away. Casey’s aunt had bought the ticket clear out of the city, so his dad didn’t get word he was trying to leave town. Joe, his dad, was a cop, and cops had friends everywhere. His dad’s friends were less than reputable behind the scenes. So the less his dad knew the better. Casey didn’t want any more trouble.
And now, for the first time in his life, Casey didn’t feel like a liar in his own skin. He was out. He was going to see the other side of life. He was free to be who he was, out from under his dad’s thumb. He’d lost friends when he came out a few weeks ago. He’d lost family who didn’t understand. But he had his mom, his mom’s sisters, and his older cousin Adam. Adam had been the first person he’d called after his dad attacked him. Adam immediately offered Casey work and a room at his place, a GLBTQ retreat and summer camp in Shermin Heights, Kentucky. Casey accepted. He couldn’t live his life in fear anymore. He refused to.
Now standing outside the running Greyhound bus, he stared at his mom. “I’ll call you at every stop.”
“And when you get there I want to talk to Adam. He and his partner are going to pick you up in Cherry Creek. I just want to know the details is all.” She straightened his jacket, fussing over him. “You look so grown up.”
“I am grown up.” He smiled.
“You’re only twenty years old, boy, just a baby.” She crossed her arms. “Don’t make me feel old right now. I’m already a mess as it is.”
“You aren’t old, mom.” He winked and winced, forgetting for a second about his eye.
“Hold on. I think I have some aspirin in my purse.” Her hands trembled, rummaging through her simple over the shoulder bag, her motherly staple she’d worn since he was little.
“Mom.” He stilled her hands. “I have some already. I have everything I need. They’ll leave me behind if I don’t get going.”
She produced a wad of cash from her purse, shoving it at him. “I keep a separate account from your dad. He won’t know, so don’t you worry. Take it.”
He swallowed, looking at the hundred-dollar bills crumpled in his hands. “Mom, I can’t take this. You’ll need it.”
“Don’t argue with me, Casey. I’ll be just fine with Kim. She’ll take care of anything I need until I can get on my feet. So you take this and buy yourself some of those fancy headphones. I know your dad broke the other ones, found them in the trash.”
“Yeah.” He pocketed the money, knowing she wasn’t backing down. “He took everything.”
Her eyes widened. “Oh heavens, I almost forgot.” She grinned, running to the back of the suburban. “Oh come on.” She finally beeped the back door open after a few tries. A large silver case gleamed on the floorboard and Casey held his breath. She huffed, looking over her shoulder. “Well, help me out here. You’re going to be late.”
Casey went to her, taking his Numark Analog Deck housed in the protective case. “I thought he…”
“I rescued it from the trash. It was the only thing that wasn’t broken.” She beamed. “I know how much you saved up for it. The only thing you’ve ever wanted to do is make that loud booty music.”
“Mom, it’s not…” He laughed. “It’s not booty music.”
“Whatever you call it, I know how much you love it.”
The bus driver whistled from the door. “You coming or what, kid?”
“Yes, sir.” He held up a hand. “Thanks, mom. I love you.” He put his free arm around her. “Take care of yourself, please.”
“I will.” She kissed his cheek, squeezing the life out of him. “Get going before I fall apart. I love you too, Casey.”
He pulled away, shuffling backwards. “See you later, alligator.”
His mom bit her lip again, holding up a hand as the distance grew between them. “In a while, crocodile.”
He turned around and boarded the bus, afraid to watch her cry.
Link bobbed his head to the latest Afrojack mix behind the front counter. He did a little twirl, shaking it like no one was watching. And no one was. All the guests were settled down at the lake for the bonfire barbeque and only the cleaning guy was lurking around somewhere. He checked his purple faux hawk in the mirror on the wall, popped his lips, and smiled.
“Still gorgeous,” he sang.
The front door chimed and he whipped around, turned down the music, and put on his business face. “Welcome to the New Heights Haven. My name is Link. How may I assist you?”
Two women approached the counter, dragging a month’s worth of matching luggage with them. The first, a tall brunette, let her bag drop to the ground. She looked exhausted and a little more down to earth than the sandy haired woman behind her. “We have a reservation under Foster. I’m sorry we’re late for check-in.” She cut her eyes to the other woman. “Someone had to stop at the salon because her polish chipped.”
“Honestly, Debra? It took five minutes and I happen to want to look nice on my vacation.” She pursed her lips, flicking her fingers.
“If by five minutes you mean two hours, including having your hair blown out, then sure. This is supposed to be a vacation, not torture. You know I hate salons.” The brunette put her elbows on the counter. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting. Is our cabin still available by chance?”
Link looked at Debra, watching her push her designer shades onto her head. She narrowed her eyes. He snorted and his brows quirked. “Okay, let me have a little looksee here.”
“You do that.” Debra rolled her eyes.
“Debra, cut it out.”
“Oh, excuse me for speaking, Sam.”
Sam grunted. “You’re excused.”
Link grinned, looking up the reservation. “Here it is. Foster. We have you in cabin three, just a short walk towards the lake. It’ll be on your right.” He pulled the keys from the wall and grabbed a welcome basket from under the desk. “Here you go.” He handed over the goods and Sam patted his hand, grateful.
Debra cooed, grabbing the champagne from the basket. Without another word, she grabbed her rolling suitcase and high tailed it outside.
Sam shut her eyes for a second, exasperated. “I’m so sorry. She can be…”
“A bitch?” Link leaned on the counter. “I got that.”
Sam sniggered and squeezed his hand. “If you weren’t so cute, I’d punch you for that. However, you’re right and I’m sorry. This was supposed to be one of those reconnecting with each other trips. We haven’t been getting along lately, and despite her faults, I love her and want to make it work.”
“It’s all good, doll.” He winked. “Nothing I haven’t seen before. After she has a few glasses of bubbly, I’m sure you know where to go from there. When she wakes up with that breeze blowing through the windows, wrapped up in your arms, I don’t think she could be a bitch if she tried.”
Sam laughed so hard, she had to put her hands over her face. “Oh, I like you. I’ll see you around, sweetheart.”
“Count on it.” He blew her a kiss and waved her out of the lobby. “God, I love this job.”
Adam got out of Matt’s borrowed Jeep with Perry, catching Casey’s attention. Casey was beat. He could barely keep his eyes open and his legs hurt from sitting for so long. He dusted off his jeans of peanut butter cracker crumbs, courtesy of the vending machine, and stood. He looked over the country boy behind Adam and blew out a slow exhale. Damn, he thought. Adam was a lucky bastard. Perry was a hell of lot finer in person. Casey had only seen pictures.
“Sorry we’re running behind. The guests were having a barbeque out at the lake and they’re a chatty bunch.” Adam stopped in front of him. He scowled, pushing Casey’s long blond bangs out of his face. “Are you fucking kidding me? He did this to you?”
Casey turned ten shades of red, pushing Adam’s hand away. “It’s fine, doesn’t even hurt anymore.”
“The hell it doesn’t.” Perry put his hands on his hips. “That’s a true shiner if I ever saw one, and I’ve had my fair share of black eyes. I bet it’ll hurt for another week. That cut still coming together too?”
“Yes,” Casey admitted. “I’m sorry. Can we just go? I’m really tired.”
“Shit, of course. Can’t stand out here all night, can we?” Adam gave Perry a look.
“You look exhausted.” Perry hauled Casey’s bag into the back of the jeep.
Casey rubbed his nose. “A little.”
“Which is code for a very.” Adam chuckled. “Get in.”
“Is that a gun case?” Perry’s brows shot up, seeing the silver case in Casey’s grip. “I don’t know what kind of mess you was in back in New Orleans, but I don’t feel comfortable having that around. I mean, I have a shotgun, but that’s different. Hasn’t seen the light of day in years, only the last time I went duck hunting with pop. I don’t mean to offend you or nothing, but…”
Casey smiled. “None taken because it’s not a gun, it’s a deck.”
“I got a deck at home and it holds my gas grill and a table with chairs. Not really sure how you can fit one in that there case.” Perry got in the passenger’s seat after letting Casey in the back.
Adam laughed. “No, baby, not a patio kind of deck, it’s to mix music with.”
“I’m lost.” Perry threw up his hands. He swore softly and lit up a cigarette. “A musical patio.”
“Put that out. You already had your limit for the day. You’re supposed to be cutting back.” Adam glared.
“Ah, come on, just this one. I won’t have any more until tomorrow. I promise.” Perry pouted.
“No.” Adam reached for the cigarette, but Casey got to it first. He smiled and sat back, taking a hit. “Not you to!”
“Only socially, and I think I deserve one after today. Don’t you?” Casey leaned his head back against the seat, letting the smoke drift off into the wind.
“Just the one, Casey, don’t let ashtray mouth here corrupt you.” Adam smirked in the rearview mirror.
“We’ll just see if this ashtray mouth kisses you from now on.” Perry crossed his arms. “Maybe I’ll find someone who wants my mouth.”
The jeep swerved. “What!” Adam shrieked.
Perry howled with laughter. “Ain’t no one gonna put up with me, but you, baby.” Perry pushed the brim of his cap to the side to kiss Adam’s cheek. “Just a joke, sugar. You’re so uptight.”
“I’ll show you tight.” Adam laughed, pushing Perry back into his seat.
“Ears back here who don’t want to hear.” Casey snorted, inhaling a deep drag of smoke, settling his achy body into the bench seat.
Adam and Perry busted up laughing. Someone turned up the music. Miles of country fields opened up on either side of them. The jeep zoomed down the dirt road and Casey stared at the early evening stars peeking through the darkening sky. Traveling had never seemed so relaxing to Casey. Maybe he was tired, physically and emotionally, but he had a feeling that wasn’t it at all. Something about the open southern country, the darkening sky with millions of glittering stars, and the smell of fresh air gave Casey hope. Yeah, he thought, Shermin might be the best place to be after all.
He didn’t remember the rest of the drive. He passed out somewhere after he finished his cigarette and a call to his mom. A hand to his shoulder scared him awake. He sat straight up, looking from side to side. “What? Where am I?”
“Hey,” Adam said softly. “We’re here. Perry’s got your stuff already. You need to get to bed before end up out here all night. Trust me, the mosquito bites aren’t worth it.” He folded down the front seat, and held the seatbelt back. “Come on, Case.”
Yawning, Casey slipped through the opening and hopped onto the gravel drive. He stretched, shook off his comatose sleep, and looked around. A small building with painted white wood siding sat in front of the jeep, the epicenter of the New Heights Haven. Twinkling white lights guided the way in several directions, creating pretty, narrow paths through the trees. As he looked up, he saw white globe lanterns, and smiled. He’d never been anywhere like this before.
“This is nice, Adam, seriously.” Casey smiled. “I guess I pictured more of a camp, but this is…pretty.”
“Thanks. It’s only a camp during the summer.” Adam slung an arm around him, which was a little awkward since he was shorter, but Casey gladly welcomed the comforting touch. “God, I was so nervous last year when those teens showed up. Perry almost roped me to a tree to get me to calm down.” Adam laughed. “But that was one of the best summers of my life. Those kids…we made a difference with them, Case. There’s not a better feeling in the world than getting that hug at the end of the summer, knowing they really, truly had the best time of their life.”
“It’s good, what you do here for kids…like me. I really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.” Casey looked away.
Adam stopped, tugging his cousin close. “You’re safe to be yourself here, Case. And I want you to stay as long as you want. I don’t care if you rot here with a gray hair in a rocker on the porch. You have a home here.”
Wiping his eyes, Casey nodded. “Thanks. That means a lot.”
“No thanks needed.” Adam gave him a squeeze. “Now get up there before you get me crying. I’m an ugly crier. Just ask Perry.”
“Who’s crying?” Perry pushed open the screen door of the main building, frowning under the porch light. “Ah, shit, you crying again, Adam? You know I can’t stand it. You get all a mess, looking like a drowned cat high on bud.”
“See?” Adam chuckled. “Ugly crier.”
“Come on, you two!” Perry swatted his arm, already under attack by mosquitos. “I’m gonna look like I got the pox in another five minutes.”
Casey and Adam shuffled up the drive, going into the empty lobby, and down a small hallway. Perry and Adam showed him the last door on the left. Perry knocked. Loud music bumped on the other side of the door.
“Link, turn that shit down and come open the door.” Perry pounded again. He rolled his eyes then gasped as the door flew open.
Casey’s eyes went wide at the pixie of a man with purple hair, standing in the doorway in nothing but a pair of lime green briefs. His summer tanned body shimmered with some kind of sparkly lotion and the scent of watermelon rolled into the hallway.
“Yes, your highness?” Link leaned against the door, tapping his fingers to the beat of the music, which he promptly turned down by holding up a remote.
“Uh,” Perry cleared his throat, averting his eyes, “this is your new roommate, Casey. He’s Adam’s little cousin.”
“There is nothing little about him.” Link checked Casey over.
Casey shook his bangs over his black eye, fearful of the petite man’s scrutiny. He didn’t feel like answering any more questions tonight. He was tired and a tad overwhelmed by Captain Green Undies. “I’m Casey.” He put his hand out.
A soft hand fit into his long enough to transfer shimmer onto his palm. “Mm hmm, I already got that. I’m Link, as in Lincoln, but I spell Link with a k. Link with a c reminds me of Zinc and no one wants to sound like a vitamin.”
“Oh brother.” Adam sighed. “Link, can you help Casey get settled and make sure he at least makes it to lunch tomorrow? I have a feeling someone is pretty tired,” he hinted.
Link’s lips made a little o and he stepped aside. “My bad, sorry for the hold up. You can sleep right there. Don’t worry, it’s clean. I burned the bedding after Joey left. Such a slut.”
“Link,” Adam warned softly.
“Well, he was.” Link sighed. “And like I said, the bed’s been decontaminated since whore-zilla moved out. Sorry your side isn’t completely setup. I wasn’t informed you were coming.”
Perry pushed by politely, bringing Casey’s things inside. “Sorry about the last minute arrangements, Link. I know you were hoping for your own room until the summer. We just haven’t gotten around to the—”
“It’s cool. I was going to have another roommate sometime. Why not now, right?” Link shrugged, completely comfortable prancing around in his underwear. Casey was kind of flabbergasted neither Adam nor Perry commented on his state of undress. If he was to make an assumption, he’d have to say this was normal for Link. God, he hoped Link didn’t greet guests like that. Was this that kind of place?
Casey swallowed, trying his hardest not to stare at Link’s half-naked body. He wasn’t sure if it was Link’s flawless skin or the fact the guy was wearing glittery lotion that made him want to look, but he decided staring probably wasn’t the best first impression, no matter how crazy Link might be. Casey set his backpack down on the simple twin bed, covered in a pinstripe quilt and looked at Adam and Perry.
“Thanks for everything,” he murmured. “I’m sorry to put you out like this, and so late at night. You guys must be beat.”
“Late?” Link laughed. “Honey, it’s only nine thirty. This isn’t a retirement home.”
Adam cut Link a look. He mouthed something that Casey couldn’t see before he faced him and smiled. “It’s no problem. Remember what I said.” He pointed at Casey. “This is your home now too.”
“Right.” Casey sighed. “Night guys.”
Perry gave him an awkward hug. Adam melted, his eyes going a little too goo-goo gaga for Casey’s liking. His cousin rubbed his arm. “Night, Case.”
The couple retreated, shutting the door behind them. Casey sat on his bed, and rubbed his face gently. He kicked off his shoes, avoiding Link’s stare.
“Are you always this quiet?” Link peered down, giving Casey a straight shot of the guy’s goods.
Casey turned away, peeling off his jacket. “Sometimes. Are you always…like this?”
“Like what?” Link put his hands on his hips.
“And that’s why I don’t talk a lot. There’s never a right thing to say for me.” Casey flopped back on his bed. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to piss you off. It’s been a long day.”
Link stayed way too silent for Casey’s liking. He turned to see the shock on Link’s face. “What?”
Link removed his hand from over his mouth, eyes softening. “What happened to your face?”
“Shit.” Casey messed with his bangs until his eye was covered again. “It’s nothing.”
“Um, no it’s not. Honey, what happened to you?” Link sat on the bed and put a hand on Casey’s knee. “I’d like to imagine you’re a sexy MMA fighter, total fantasy for me, but you don’t exactly have the build. No offense.”
“Not offended, I just don’t want to talk about it.” Casey rolled over. “I only want to sleep.”
Link rubbed his leg, careful not to go too far. “In your clothes?”
He was trying to be nice, so Casey didn’t jump down his throat. “Not everyone is cool with walking around half-naked,” Casey mumbled. He felt Link get up from the bed. Hot breath hit his ear.
“Not everyone has tried it. Don’t knock it til you know it.” Link pressed a kiss to his temple. “Whatever your story is, there’s no judgment here. Night, roomie.”
Casey felt the husky goodnight course all the way through his body. He stayed frozen, staring at the wall, listening to Link’s playlist switch to a softer remix, one he really liked. His eyes began to close. His toes still twitched to the music. Slowly but surely, Casey fell asleep to the heavy scent of watermelon and Link’s humming.
TO BE CONTINUED…